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Long road to championship weekend


Gresham needs to pull off four straight wins to have a shot at the US title

by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: DEBBIE MEHLHAFF - Greshams Greg Mehlhaff threw 64 pitches in Fridays start, meaning he wont be available for a return to the mound until Tuesday.

WILLIAMSPORT — The good news, losing in the first round of the Little League World Series doesn’t mean packing your bags and hopping on a plane back home. The bad news, it makes for a long road to championship weekend.

Teams losing in the first round face an uphill battle of survival, needing four straight wins to punch a ticket into Saturday’s US final. In addition, that path is littered with tough opponents as they fall out of the winner’s bracket during the week.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle is managing pitch counts (see below). Most teams relied on their ace in the first round, leaving the support staff to carry the load as the team enters must-win mode.

Little League pitchers can throw a maximum of 85 pitches on any given day.

Little League pitchers are held to strict pitch counts with a maximum of 85 throws per game. At the World Series these numbers are posted on big scoreboards in each dugout, so managers know exactly where their hurlers stand. A pitcher can make up to 20 throws and still be eligible to return to the mound the following day.

“You’ve got to go 20s if you’re going to survive in this bracket,” Gresham manager Jason Trickel said. “You definitely need things to go your way and pitching is at a premium. You need some kids to step up and throw strikes.”

Trickel says his team is 4-5 deep in arms with No. 2 man Hunter Hemenway leading that pack.

"We have a lot of guys who can throw the baseball, we just need to get the bats going and hit better as a group," Trickel said.

Another key for the Nationals sits behind the plate in catcher Tyler Pederson, who has the ability to catch a mix of pitchers.

"I can call any pitch in any situation and trust TP to keep the ball in front of him," Trickel said. "That freedom keeps the hitters guessing."

Gresham begins its do-or-die journey at 5 p.m. Saturday against Parsippany, NJ, televised on ESPN.

“We lost our first game at Regionals and bounced back,” Trickel said. “We’ve been here since Monday and the kids have been itching to play, so it will be a good thing to get right back out there.”

With a win, the Nationals would advance to play the loser of Sunday’s Petaluma, CA vs. Goodlettsville, TN game.

Teams are guaranteed three games at the World Series, so a loss Saturday night would leave Gresham to face either Mexico or Uganda in an international exhibition.