WILLIAMSPORT, PA — The kids from Peachtree City got the full major league experience in their first game of the Little League World Series.
Above, Peachtree City Little League’s Tai Peete delivers a pitch during the Little League World Series in Williamsport. Photo/Brett R. Crossley.
Peachtree City went the full distance plus two extra innings as it battled the West through the longest recorded game in World Series history. In the end, a walk-off home run from Aukai Kea gave the West a 2-0 win over Peachtree City in 11 innings.
Despite the loss, which puts Peachtree City into a game later today (Saturday) against the Northwest, manager Patrick Gloriod still took a lot of positives away from the game. Peachtree City will play the Northwest tonight (Saturday) at 8 p.m.
“He didn’t do anything wrong, he got those kids out the first time through the lineup,” Gloriod said of Ben Traxler. “Kea, who hit the home run, we don’t know how to pitch him. We scouted all of their kids and had a plan for most of them, but he’s just such a good hitter. He hits curveballs and fastballs. Our kids were hitting their spots and he was just getting to the ball and hitting it. You just have to tip your cap to him.”
Kea had two hits, scored one and hit in another two runs. Gloriod’s scouting wasn’t that far off as Peachtree City did manage to strike him out three times. Kea also pitched 6 1/3 innings, striking out 10 batters while not giving up a run.
The Southeast countered with Jansen Kenty, who went 5 1/3 innings to open the game. He struck out 12 batters in the process of keeping one of the hottest lineups in the tournament scoreless through most of regulation.
“His fastball has been overpowering especially since it’s something he can throw from the left side,” Gloriod said. “His curveball wasn’t really working in the first inning, but overall we rely on the fastball.”
Peachtree City turned to Tai Peete, Connor Riggs-Soper, and Ben Traxler to finish the game. The trio combined to keep the West at bay until Kea’s shot ended the game with one swing.
Despite the loss, Peachtree City’s deep pitching staff was on display. The West stranded 14 baserunners in the game. That included leaving the bases loaded twice in the game.
In the first inning a single, double, and walk loaded the bases as the West looked poised to put some runs on the board. Kenty reared back and fanned two consecutive batters to end the inning. It was the beginning of the what would go on to become a marathon, 11-inning contest that saw eight different pitchers.
“You always trying to think about whether you’re playing Saturday or Sunday,” Gloriod said of his deep pitching staff. “In a game like that you don’t know which way it’s going to go. It allowed me be more flexible with the pitching staff if I didn’t like the matchups.”
Kenty, Chase Fralick, Wills Maginnis, and Ben Traxler all recorded singles for Peachtree City in the loss. It will have to get the offense moving as it failed to advance a baserunner past second.
West 2, Peachtree City 0 (11 innings)
SE 000 000 000 00—0 4 2
WE 000 000 000 02—2 8 0
Jansen Kenty, Tai Peete, Connor Riggs-Soper, Ben Traxler, and Chase Fralick. Aukai Kea, Ka’olu Holt, Sean Yamaguchi, John De La Cruz, and Bruce Boucher.
WP: Yamaguchi. LP: Traxler.
Top Peachtree City hitters: Jansen Kenty 1-4. Top West hitters: Aukai Kea 2-6, run, 2 RBI.
Records: Peachtree City 0-1. West 1-0.
Reported by BRETT R. CROSSLEY, Special to The Citizen