WILLIAMSPORT, PA — Heads were hanging, calls weren’t going the team’s way, and the opening inning of Peachtree City’s elimination game against the Mid-Atlantic could not have opened with more adversity.

Above, Peachtree City’s Connor Riggs-Soper runs home after reaching base with a double during the second inning of a Little League World Series game against the Mid-Atlantic. Photo/Brett R. Crossley.

In what’s becoming a trademark of the team, clutch hits and timely outs allowed it to get right back into it. After retaking the lead, it was all up to Tai Peete to close things out. The growing superstar lived up to the hype as he was nearly untouchable throughout the remainder of the game.

Peete went five innings and recorded five strikeouts as Peachtree City outlasted the Mid-Atlantic for a 7-3 win. It was the third consecutive win for Peachtree City, which advances to face the West in the United State Championship Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

In Thursday night’s win, Peachtree City received help from just about every player on the team. The bottom two slots in the order proved to be valuable as they finished a combined 4-for-5 with two runs scored and another three driven in.

Connor Riggs-Soper, the likely starter in Saturday’s U.S. Championship, connected with a double in the second and a single in the fifth. He was pinch-hit for in the third by James Hooper, who entered to hit a double and score two runs.

“I’m super proud of James and Connor,” Peachtree City Manager Patrick Gloriod said. “They’ve been struggling a little bit, but it’s really cool to see them keep battling. They maybe get one at bat a game and then coming through like that meant a lot to the team.”

Hooper only had the one at bat in the game, but used his chance to the fullest of his ability.

“I’ve been feeling pretty good in the cages and during my at bats all week,” Hooper said. “I’ve just been waiting for it to happen and I finally got a nice hit. It felt pretty good.”

The Mid-Atlantic’s offense opened strong with three of the first four batters reaching base safely. Chris Bedford and Derek Mendez hit singles and Steven Martinez connected with a double. All three runners scored as the Mid-Atlantic built a three-run lead in the first inning.

Peachtree City didn’t even blink as Peete hit a double and Jansen Kenty hit a triple in the bottom of the frame to score two runs. Riggs-Soper opened the second with a double and Traxler, who already has a walk-off hit in the Series, laced a ball into left field for a triple and tie score.

“It was really hard when they scored three runs, but I just had to get used to the umpire’s strike zone,” Peet said. “It was tight at the beginning, but once I loosened up it just seemed to get bigger and bigger.”

The run support was there for Peachtree City as it added runs in each of the first four innings of play. Singles from Chase Fralick and Jack Ryan helped add two runs in the third and a lead-off singe from Peete in the fourth helped score another run.

As the run support came from Peachtree City’s offense, Peete found his groove as he retired nine of ten batters through the second, third, and fourth innings. Three outs came by strikeouts as Peete let his defense take care of the rest.

In the second, after a lead-off walk, Peete received a boost when Willis Maginnis broke across the infield to snag a ball, tag second, and throw to first for a double play. Maginnis completed a similar play in the fifth to end the inning. He only needed one out this time as the inning came to a close with a Mid-Atlantic runner stuck at third.

“I just knew we were going to win that game after we scored once,” Peete said. “We just kept going and scoring.”

Peachtree City posted hits and put runs up as nearly every batter in the order contributed. The bottom three slots connected with two doubles, a triple, and scored two runs while driving two more in.

Hopper came off the bench in the third to hit a two-RBI double. Hopper entered for Riggs-Soper, who hit a double and scored in the second and later came back with a single to open the fifth.

“These kids don’t get down on themselves,” Gloriod said. “I had a good feeling coming into the game and it was awesome to see them bounce back the way they did. We felt good about it.”

Peete carried the rosin bag from the game into the press conference after his five-inning gem against the Mid-Atlantic.

“When I finished the inning, the umpire asked me if I wanted to keep the rosin bag, and I told I wanted to leave it out there for Traxler,” Peete said. “He used it and struck the batter and I told them it was lucky. You’re going to see it against Hawaii.”

— Reported and photographed by BRETT R. CROSSLEY, Special to The Citizen


Peachtree City 7, Mid-Atlantic 3

MA 300 000—3 7 2

SE 222 10X—7 8 0

Derek Mendez, Logan Castellano (3), Steven Martinez (5), and Chris Cancel. Tai Peete, Ben Traxler (6), and Chase Fralick.

WP: Peete. LP: Mendez.

Top Mid-Atlantic hitters: Steven Martinez 2-3, 2B, run. Top Peachtree City hitters: Tai Peete 2-4, 2B, run, RBI; Jansen Kenty 1-4, 3B, 2 runs, RBI; Connor Riggs-Soper 2-2, 2B, run; James Hooper 1-1, 2B, 2 RBI.

Records: Mid-Atlantic 2-2. Peachtree City 3-1.

Next: Peachtree City vs. Honolulu at Lamade Stadium, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.