Game 1: Mountain Ridge 12, South Dakota 2
Stage fright wasn’t an issue in the team’s Little League World Series opener. You never know until you know, until the lights come on and the ESPN cameras roll. But in front of a crowd of 7,928 at famed Lamade Stadium, Mountain Ridge, representing the West Region, routed the Midwest champion in a mercy-rule victory. Four players had at least two hits for Mountain Ridge, including three from Austin Kryszczuk and a home run from Zach Hare.
Quotable: “You can look at all their faces and tell how they performed. They had fun. Even when we were down 2-1 (in the second inning) and they hit a home run against us, we laughed. It was fun to see someone put it out against us, to keep our guys humble and realize everyone is here ready to play. There is a lot of pressure in this. But we did what we needed to do.” — Mountain Ridge manager Ashton Cave.
Game 2: Mountain Ridge 13, Chicago 2
It was supposed to be a close game. It turned into a rout.
Mountain Ridge blew past the Great Lakes champion and into the winners bracket final, jumping to a 4-0 first-inning lead on Brad Stone’s grand slam, then watching starting pitcher Brennan Holligan allow just two hits in the mercy-rule win. Mountain Ridge hit five home runs en route to putting itself one win from playing for the U.S. championship. It was the first loss all summer for Chicago.
Quotable: “That’s a very good team. It’s going to take someone having a complete game to beat them. Believe it or not, I’m glad we played them now for the experience. I know my kids, and a (rematch) is what they will want. We will try to make it happen.” — Great Lakes manager Darold Butler.
Game 3: Mountain Ridge 8, Pennsylvania 1
The buildup was about an individual player, a girl who burst onto the LLWS scene with all the talent and energy and charisma that a nation could fall in love with and ESPN could make into an overnight star. Mo’ne Davis was the hype, but Mountain Ridge was the truth. The win before 34,128 put the team from Nevada into the U.S. championship game. Davis departed after 2 1/3 innings, having allowed three runs and six hits, including a two-run homer by Dallan Cave.
Quotable: “Playing for a U.S. championship is unbelievable. I’ve watched the Little League World Series since I was 5, always seeing how the U.S. teams fight to get to that moment. To know myself and 13 other guys are going to be in that game … hopefully we can get the victory against whoever we play.” — Mountain Ridge player Austin Kryszczuk.
U.S. championship game: Chicago 7, Mountain Ridge 5
History will tell you that Mountain Ridge won this game 6-0, a result of the team from Chicago later being stripped of its title for using ineligible players. But long before such a ruling occurred and Nevada being shipped its championship banner, Chicago scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth and ended things in the sixth with its second double play of the afternoon before 27,428 and an ABC-TV audience. The forfeit controversy eventually reached all the way to the White House, where President Obama — who hosted the team from Jackie Robinson West — placed the blame on adults and their “dirty dealing.”
Quotable: “I lost my brother (at age 30) last year, and he had a wife and two children. Now that was very difficult. That’s real loss. I also see it all the time in my job as (a firefighter). This game is not fatal. It’s a game. It teaches young men that you’re going to fail, that there are going to be losses, that losing is part of it, and we need to deal with and accept that. You can’t let it eat at you and ruin you. Learn from the experience. Embrace the joy and fun of playing the game. Embrace the freedom we have to play it and always remember those out there protecting our freedom.” — Mountain Ridge manager Ashton Cave.
Consolation game: Japan 5, Mountain Ridge 0
What began for thousands of All-Star teams across the country earlier in the summer ended for Mountain Ridge on the final day of the Little League season. Manager Ashton Cave stayed true to his word, starting all his reserves so that each could have that experience in Williamsport. He threw four pitchers — Zach Hare, Andrew Matulich, Josh Zuehlsdorff and Dillon Jones — and none of his top three before 7,083 and an ESPN audience. Jones had actually drawn a picture at age 8 of Lamade Stadium and a game in which he was pitching against Japan, a piece of a boy’s artwork that his parents have saved to the day.
Quotable: “I just always thought it would be amazing to play here and in front of so many people. I thought Japan was always the best team, so I drew it of me shutting them down and closing a game out. We didn’t (win) the game, but it does prove dreams come true if you work hard enough. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for all of us. We need to soak it all in.” — Mountain Ridge pitcher Dillon Jones.
Contact Ed Graney at email@example.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.