SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, PA. - Few teams have had success stopping the Chandler National Little League offense this summer. Why that is the case was evident Wednesday at Lamade Stadium.
Chandler was limited to two runs through the first four innings, but erupted for seven runs in the fifth inning as it defeated Coon Rapids, Minn., 9-2, in the final U.S. pool play game at the Little League Baseball World Series.
Chandler’s seven-run flurry not only snapped a 2-2 tie, but also vaulted the West champions into tonight’s U.S. semifinals. Chandler will play Warner Robins, Ga., (4:30 p.m., ESPN) at Lamade Stadium.
“You never know with our lineup,” winning pitcher Seth Fretheim said.
“You might strike out the side the first inning and the next inning you come back and everybody gets a base hit.”
Fretheim powered Chandler with his pitching and hitting. In addition to scattering three hits and striking out eight in five innings, he also homered, doubled and drove in four runs.
“He’s just a good athlete. He knows how to play the game and to swing it,” Chandler coach Clay Bellinger said. “He just has a lot of confidence in himself and he’s a great athlete.”
Fretheim hit a mammoth two-run home run in the third inning that erased a 2-0 deficit and then ignited the seven-run fifth-inning rally with a leadoff walk. True to form, though, Chandler had hits throughout the lineup, as five different players had hits in the fifth inning.
Kyle Pechloff put Chandler ahead to stay, hitting a 1-2 pitch into left field for a two-run single that made it 4-2. Prior to hitting his single, Pechloff talked to manager Jeff Parrish, who offered some helpful advice.
“He said to watch off-speed, get up on the plate a little in case he did throw outside and be ready for anything that he threw to me,” said Pechloff, who made a diving stop at second base, a position he never played before, to end the fourth inning. “I just wanted to hit it hard any place because they play the infield in. If I could get it past the infield we could score a few runs and that’s what happened.”
Arizona sent 11 batters to the plate in the fifth inning and scored four runs with two outs. Four straight batters drove in runs at one point, including reserves Connor Woods and Scott Wojnar, who doubled and singled, respectively.
“I knew once we got on base we could put some pressure on them and that’s exactly what happened,” Bellinger said. “We tell them from the beginning if it’s good or bad, it’s a six-inning game. I wouldn’t want to pitch against this team for six innings.”
Minnesota scored a run in each of the first two innings. Dominique Reff doubled and scored on Tanner Lowe’s two-out single in the first inning before Adam Recksiedler doubled and pinch runner Tyler Kelm scored on a second-inning wild pitch.
Recksiedler pitched four quality innings, striking out six and allowing just three hits before coming out prior to the fifth inning after throwing 76 pitches.
EXTRA BASES: Pechloff gave Chandler a boost heading into the fifth inning with his nice play on Lucas Peterson’s hard-hit ground ball in the bottom of the fourth. Pechloff dove to his left, made the stop near the back of the infield, then fired to first to just beat Peterson who was trying to spark a two-out rally. Pechloff played second base for the first time Wednesday, while also catching and playing third base in the game.
Chandler will not alter its plans now that it is in the U.S. semifinals. “Hopefully, we can hit a field and just do our normal routine,” Bellinger said. “I don’t think we’re doing anything special. We kind of like to stick to our routines.”
This is the second time Chandler has reached the U.S. semifinals. It also did so in 2003 when it lost to eventual national champion Florida, 4-1. And while Chandler has matched the 2003 squad’s success that does not mean it is content. “We didn’t come here to come in fourth,” Bellinger said. “We came here to win it. We’re happy to be where we are but we still have three more games to go hopefully.”
Chandler will be playing a Georgia team coming off an 8-1 win over Massachusetts Wednesday. Georgia has defeated Oregon 9-4, lost to Ohio 10-2, and then pounded Massachusetts, 8-1.
Little League World Series
What: Chandler National vs. Warner Robins, Ga.
When: 4:30 p.m. today
Where: South Williamsport, Pa.
At stake: Winner moves on to U.S. finals