LO Little League team wins series game in dramatic fashion
Lomax's two-hit pitching and Penney's sixth-inning homer key a 1-0 victory
What do you call them at this point? Cardiac Kids is taken. So is the Comeback Kids. The Lake Oswego little leaguers are becoming difficult to describe. Certainly a catchy nickname can't do them justice at this point.
On the brink of elimination, Lake Oswego turned in one of the most dramatic victories so far in the Little League World Series, knocking off Walpole, Mass.
1-0 on Sunday. The Oregon champions are now just one victory away from advancing out of pool play.
The box score says it was the Mitch Lomax show, featuring Reid Penney, but that doesn't tell the whole story. There were a handful of gutty performances that propelled this team through a soggy afternoon and gave
it a confidence boost heading into Monday's game against Ohio.
For a few innings it appeared that Lake Oswego might suffer a similar fate against Massachusetts as it did in its 9-4 loss to Georgia. The Lakers went down in order in the top of the first inning on three well-hit
balls. For the second game in a row, Duncan Campbell belted a ball to the warning track that was caught during his first at-bat.
Then, in the bottom of the first, Lomax took the mound during a steady drizzle that continued through the game. The first two Massachusetts batters reached base before John Adams lined out to Mikey Gallagher. Lomax followed with his first strikeout of the game, but then walked the next batter to load the bases.
Lake Oswego's pitchers struggled with control in their first game against Georgia and gave up eight runs in the first three innings. Against Massachusetts, Lake Oswego was one hit away from being in trouble again in the early stages.
But Lomax coaxed a pop-up to catcher Brennan Malagamba that ended the first-inning threat. However, Lomax had already thrown 28 pitches and didn't seem
likely to last much longer than four innings.
Lake Oswego had an excellent chance to score in the second inning when Malagamba led off with a single and Harrison Ramey followed with a one-out hit to put runners on first and third base. However, a strikeout and a groundout ended the inning.
Then Lomax took control. The 6-foot-2 right-hander gave up just one hit in the next four innings and struck out eight batters in the game.
'I threw my hardest. I kept the ball low and outside almost every pitch. If they hit it, they hit it and my defense was there to help me, so I just kept going,' Lomax said.
Still, the Lakers continued to have chances on offense but struggled to convert as they were thwarted by some stellar defense. In the top of the third inning, Austin Andrews hit a sharp ground ball to third base that was speared by a diving Matthew Bender.
In the top of the fourth, Lake Oswego put its first two runners on base when Malagamba knocked his second single of the day and Penney followed with a walk. Mitchel McLaughlin would then pinch-run for Penney.
With one out, Gallagher hit a line drive that was, again, gobbled up by Bender at third base and the Massachusetts infielder then beat Malagamba to the bag for a force out.
'We couldn't get any rhythm to the game offensively. It was a little bit frustrating, but our team has a lot of mental toughness,' Lake Oswego manager Craig Ramey said.
The game stayed scoreless through five innings and virtually everyone in attendance was watching the pitch counts. Lomax had thrown 78 pitches through five frames and it was unlikely that he would be able to complete the sixth, with an 85-pitch limit in effect.
Penney led off the top of the sixth inning and took a ball before Joseph Guarino Jr. threw him something he liked.
'It was a hanging curve ball and I just tried to hit it on the barrel and hit it hard somewhere. It felt like I made good contact. It was cool to see it going out at Williamsport, Pennsylvania,' Penney said.
The drive landed on the hill in left centerfield and touched off a celebration as Penney gave Cooper Hummel a high-five at first base and
Lake Oswego took its first lead of the Little League World Series.
A victory was anything but a certainty, however. Bender led off the bottom of the sixth for Massachusetts and hit a sharp, slicing line drive to right field that looked like it could go for extra bases. Gallagher charged it, running to his left and dived, snaring the ball inches from the wet grass.
'I didn't really think about what I was doing. I just did it,' Gallagher said about the catch.
Had Gallagher missed the ball it likely would have gone for a triple. Instead, Lake Oswego was just two outs away from knotting their World Series record at 1-1.
Lomax stayed in the game, inching closer to 85 pitches. The next batter was Adams who popped up to shallow centerfield. Three players converged on the tricky fly ball, but none of them made a play, and it landed between them for a double.
With one out, Lomax faced what would be his last batter and got John White to line out to Michael Weiss on his 85th pitch.
So, with two outs and a runner in scoring position in a 1-0 game, Calvin Hermanson was called from the bullpen to try and earn a save. Hermanson worked a full count against Brian Wolpe but eventually walked him.
'(Hermanson)'s had a few saves like this. He's got a good demeanor about him where he's able to come out in those situations and feel pretty good about himself. I didn't feel nervous for him at all. I thought he would come through and he did,' coach Ramey said.
Ramey then came out to the mound for a short talk in an attempt to calm his team's nerves, particularly Hermanson's.
'I said to Calvin, 'Trust yourself. You've been in his position before. Trust that your teammates are going to make the play. And I just said, 'don't forget to have fun,' ' the coach added.
The next batter was Samuel Falkson and Hermanson coaxed a weak ground ball to Ramey at shortstop and he tossed the ball to Andrews at second for the force out, sealing the victory and setting off a celebration.
Lake Oswego's 1-0 win marked the first time that Massachusetts had been shut out this season.
'(Lomax) was unbelievable. There aren't too many pitchers who can last six innings against us,' Massachusetts manager Brian Obbracker said.
It was a thrilling victory for Lake Oswego. After its opening loss, many people at the series tabbed the Lakers as underdogs. But now, a win over Ohio will propel the Northwest representatives into the national semifinals. But a loss will eliminate them.
Monday's game against Ohio will be held Monday at noon Pacific Time.