Billings 6 Rapid City 4
WILLIAMSPORT, PA—The first rule of baseball is that the best team wins every game. Baseball is not well suited to the logic of “…woulda, coulda, shoulda.”
There are no excuses in sport. And by those ancient standards Billings, Montana was the better team in its opening day showdown against Rapid City at the Little League World Series.
The second rule of baseball is that the gods of fluke and misfortune are fickle and cruel. And so, the boys of Dakota Nation, the Midwest champions, walked off the field on the short end of a stinging 6-4 defeat Thursday afternoon, believing that they were the better team but aware that they had let slip a game they should have won. Still frustrated after the game, Manager Kasey McGriff told IDS, “I would rather have lost the game 15-1.”
(Photos Jake Nordbye/IDS)
Through the first two innings, it looked like the Midwest would dominate the game. Brett Beyer started on the mound for Rapid City, and was perfect for two innings, and threw only 17 pitches in recording six outs.
In the bottom half of the first inning, leadoff hitter Justin Kraemer drove a Cole McKenzie curve through the box, and moved to second on an infield hit by Hayden McGriff. Rapid City was looking at a breakout first inning when Beyer hit a soft line drive between first and second. Billings second baseman Connor Kieckbusch dove to his left, snagged the ball and doubled McGriff off first base. Instead of two on with no one out, Justin Kraemer was stranded at second base with two out.
Kraemer scored on a line drive single to left by Timmy Paris to put Rapid City up 1-0 after one.
Erik Petry opened the second inning with a line drive blast to dead centerfield for a solo homerun. And Rapid City closed the second up 2-0.
However, momentum slowly began to change in the top of the third when Billings strung together a single to centerfield, two walks, and broke into the scoring column on a wild pitch.
After three strong innings, Beyer began to struggle in the fourth. He hit the leadoff hitter, walked three straight batters, and then gave up two runs on a bloop fly ball that fell between shortstop McGriff and centerfielder Petry in shallow centerfield.
The next batter up for Billings was three-hole hitter Cole McKenzie, who lashed a screaming line drive double to the left-centerfield wall to score two. Erik Petry replaced Beyer on the mound, and snuffed out the Billings rally with a swinging K. But the damage was done. Billings took the field in the bottom of the fourth with a commanding 6-2 lead.
“We played a good offensive game, but when they scored five runs we stopped chattering and people’s heads were hanging a little,” said Harney second baseman Justin Kraemer. “They say baseball is a game of short memory, so we’re focused on the next game.”
Rapid City tried to rally in their half of the fourth, when Petry drove a towering fly ball over the fence in centerfield for his second homerun of the game to close the gap to 6-3. But time was running out.
This was exactly the position that Rapid City was in during the Regional Championship game against Nebraska, when they exploded for three runs in the fifth. With two outs, McGriff drove a homerun over the right field wall, but when Beyer pounded a hard line drive directly to the Billings shortstop, the rally was over before it had really begun.
“I sit outside and look at the stats that I have in front of me and, obviously, you wouldn’t guess the outcome of the game,” said McGriff in the post-game press conference. “We hit the ball hard. We hit it to individuals. Obviously that one inning…they scored five runs and it’s hard to dig back from that.”
Sitting in the stands, Rapid City baseball instructor Jason Herz offered a cautionary note, “Walks and errors lose games, but solo homeruns rarely win a game.” Although the boys from Raid City had hit the ball hard against Billings pitcher Cole McKenzie all afternoon, they never seemed to rattle him. He kept throwing strikes, and Harney could not string hits together. Even with three homeruns, they had only four runs to show for it.
Going in to the bottom of the sixth, Rapid City needed base runners, and fans who have followed their magical run to Williamsport knew that with the heart of the lineup coming up, a two-run deficit was not insurmountable. But nothing fell their way. When cleanup hitter Timmy Paris hit a foul ball past first base, Pearce Kurth made a spectacular diving catch. The Billings crowd went wild. One out.
Zach Solano drove a screaming line drive to left field. Nine out of ten times it would be a double to the gap, but instead, the Billings leftfielder took two steps to his left and handled it neatly. Solano’s shot was the story of the day. Rapid City pounded the ball, but they either hit solo home runs or line drive outs directly to the defense. Billings forced the final out when Petry flew out to the warning track in centerfield.
Billings 6-Rapid City 4.
Billings hit the ball hard once all game, but they were exquisitely patient at the plate, took advantage of the walks they were given, and the one time Cole McKenzie got his chance to hit the ball hard…he did.
Rapid City returns to action Saturday afternoon against Warner Robins, Georgia at 1 p.m. MDT.
Northwest vs Midwest: 6-4
- Winning Pitcher: 17 – Cole McKenzie
- Losing Pitcher: 9 – Brett Beyer
- Save Pitcher: 21 – Sean Jones
- Date: 08/18/2011
- Start Time: 03:10 PM
- Duration: 1:58
- End Time: 05:08 PM
- Plate Ump: Ken Snyder
- Field Ump #1: Rich Pothier
- Field Ump #2: Nancy Prieto
- Field Ump #3: Frank Bergfield
- Location: Lamade Stadium
- Attendance: 11400
- Weather: Sunny and warm high in upper 80
2B: C.McKenzie (1).
HP: A.Maehl (1).
RBI: C.Kieckbusch 2 (2), C.McKenzie 2 (2), I.Leatherberry (1).
Team LOB: 5.FIELDING
A: P.Zimmer 2 (2), C.Kieckbusch 3 (3), C.McKenzie (1), A.Maehl (1), S.Jones (1).
DP: 1 (C. Kieckbusch(2B) – P. Kurth(1B)).
E: P.Zimmer (1).
FCS: A.Maehl (1).
PB: A.Maehl (1).
PO: P.Zimmer 2 (2), C.Kieckbusch 3 (3), B.Askelson 2 (2), A.Maehl 2 (2), P.Kurth 3 (3), D.Smith 4 (4), B.MacDonald 2 (2).
SBA: A.Maehl (1).
TC: P.Zimmer 5 (5), C.Kieckbusch 6 (6), C.McKenzie (1), B.Askelson 2 (2), A.Maehl 3 (3), P.Kurth 3 (3), D.Smith 4 (4), B.MacDonald 2 (2), S.Jones (1).
HR: H.McGriff (1), E.Petry 2 (2).
RBI: H.McGriff (1), T.Paris (1), E.Petry 2 (2).
CS: M.Pikula (1).
Team LOB: 2.FIELDING
A: H.McGriff (1), B.Beyer 3 (3), T.Paris (1), E.Petry (1), R.McSherry 2 (2), K.Maguire (1).
DP: 1 (H. McGriff(SS) – E. Petry(P) – Z. Solano(1B)).
PO: J.Kraemer (1), H.McGriff (1), T.Paris 7 (7), Z.Solano 7 (7), C.Fees (1), M.Pikula (1).
TC: J.Kraemer (1), H.McGriff 2 (2), B.Beyer 3 (3), T.Paris 8 (8), Z.Solano 7 (7), E.Petry (1), C.Fees (1), M.Pikula (1), R.McSherry 2 (2), K.Maguire (1).