SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, PA. - Seth Fretheim’s change of heart helped Chandler National Little League record a big win in its Little League World Series opener.
Fretheim planned on taking the game’s first pitch Saturday afternoon against Salisbury, Md. As he walked to the plate, he changed his mind and then deposited Craig East’s first pitch for a leadoff home run.
Fretheim’s home run paved the way for a 17-hit offensive display as Chandler routed the Mid-Atlantic champs 16-6 at Lamade Stadium in the first game for both teams.
“Before this game I just said I was never swinging at that first pitch and then up there I told myself if it’s right down the middle you can hit it,” Fretheim said. “It was right down the middle and I hit it.”
Fretheim’s leadoff home run was the first of two home runs he hit Saturday and it set the offensive tone as Chandler scored four first-inning runs and never trailed. Chandler scored at least two runs in each of its first four at-bats and received five home runs from Fretheim, Cody Bellinger, Luke Parrish and Edgar Galiz.
Fretheim, Bellinger and Parrish, the team’s No. 1-3 hitters, combined to go 11-for-14 with four home runs, eight RBIs and 10 runs.
“We just worked on our hitting and curveballs when we first got here,” said Parrish, who went 4-for-5 and hit a three-run, second-inning home run. “We wanted to be clean and crisp on everything. We watched their (championship) game, so we kind of knew what was coming, too.”
Maryland had nine hits and pulled as close as 4-1 and 7-4 in the first two innings but no closer.
Bellinger hit a two-run, third-inning home run, and a four-run, third-inning flurry gave Chandler a comfortable 13-4 lead.
Nine different players had hits for Chandler, which is playing here for the second time in four years after reaching the U.S. semifinals in 2003.
“Certainly we give our good hitters the green light,” Chandler manager Jeff Parrish said. “If they’re throwing a fastball down the middle or any pitch they can drive hard to the gap. We don’t like to hold the reins on the guys that swing the bats well.”
Pitcher Kyle Pechloff earned the win for Chandler despite allowing four runs in 1 2/3 innings.
Chandler will try to improve to 2-0 at noon today when it meets Southwest champion Lubbock, Texas.
NOTES: The attendance at Saturday’s game was 18,100, easily the largest crowd Chandler has played in front of before. “I think it’s pretty cool to see so many people come out to support your team,” Fretheim said.
Chandler players said they planned on watching the replay of their game on tape Saturday night while also hanging out with friends.
A long summer of big games has taken a toll on Bellinger’s voice. “I lost my voice right off the bat here,” a hoarse Bellinger said.
Each of the 16 teams at this year’s series is wearing new uniforms. In what could be a good omen for Chandler, the West champions are now predominantly wearing baby blue jerseys as Georgia did last year when it captured the championship.
Little League World Series
When: Today-Aug. 26
Where: South Williamsport, Pa.
Chandler National’s schedule: 9 a.m. today vs. Lubbock, Texas, ESPN2; 5 p.m. Tuesday vs. Coon Rapids, Minn., ESPN2