BANGOR — All it took was one swing and a lazy fly ball for Tevon Potts to earn redemption Tuesday afternoon.
A midrange pop to the right fielder is usually no big deal, but it had the South Vineland, N.J., catcher smiling.
Potts erased the memory of a four-strikeout performance at the plate with a 10th-inning sacrifice fly as the U.S. East representatives won a 9-8 Senior League World Series marathon over U.S. Southwest champ Houston, Texas, at Mansfield Stadium.
The win lifts manager Abe Heredia’s club to a 2-0 record in Pool A competition heading into today’s showdown against 2-0 Bangor while the West University Little League squad dips to 1-1.
Vaughn Watson, who scored four runs, led off the New Jersey 10th with a single to left, and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Chris Adorno.
Watson then took third on a wild pitch with Potts at the plate, and Houston subsequently brought its infield in, leaving few to believe Potts would be intentionally walked to set up the possibility of an inning-ending double play.
But Potts said he knew he wouldn’t get a free pass, and simply looked for a pitch he could get in the air.
“I thought I was going to get a curveball because I had been striking out all game. I thought they would go for a strikeout.”
Potts got a fastball down and away from Texas righty Stewart Cartwright, and Watson got an excellent jump off third base and scored well ahead of Houston right fielder Davis Atkins’ throw that was up the third-base line.
Heredia felt the contest probably shouldn’t have even gotten to that point, as New Jersey let Texas tie it in the seventh after taking a 7-4 advantage with three fifth-inning runs.
Manager Trey Hillman’s Houston club got one back in the sixth on Sam Reid’s RBI double and scored twice more in the seventh thanks to an error, infield RBI base hit by Matt Luna and RBI groundout to short from Davis Atkins.
“We broke down defensively and that’s not us,” Heredia said. “Usually we field the baseball very well and today we made some boo-boo’s that caused us to use some pitching that we shouldn’t have used.”
South Vineland was forced to use three hurlers, with righty Carlos Lebron going 4¤ innings to notch the victory.
Houston was also a bit shaky in the field with four errors, while the wild pitch in the 10th put the winning run at third with less than two outs.
“You can’t have four errors against anybody. It doesn’t matter who you play,” said Hillman.
Andrew Biggs powered South Vineland offensively with three hits and three RBIs, including a game-tying RBI single in the eighth after Houston’s Bill Munson had driven in a run with a sacrifice fly in the top of that frame.
New Jersey did, however, leave the winning runs on third base in the eighth and ninth innings.
“Luckily [Potts] was able to go ahead and find a way to get himself an RBI,” Biggs said. “He was able to produce and luckily we were able to walk out of here with a victory.”
Hillman was pleased with the way his club was able to fight back from a pair of three-run deficits, with Reid and Atkins sparking Texas’ 15-hit attack with two doubles and an RBI apiece.
“Offensively, our guys fought back very well, I was very proud of that, and to bang out 15 hits, and score eight runs without the help of a single walk, that’s a great job at the plate,” he said. “It just wasn’t enough.”
Lebron chipped in for South Vineland offensively with a two-run double in the fifth.
Southwest (1-1) 100 031 210 0 — 8 15 4
East (2-0) 103 030 010 1 — 9 10 2
Roy, Streitman (5), Atkins (5), Cartwright (9) and Dunlap; Biggs, Lopez (5), Lebron (5) and Potts; WP-Lebron (1-0); LP-Cartwright (0-1); Repeat hitters: Monson (SW), Waters (SW), Atkins (SW), Reid (SW), Dunlap (SW); Watson (E), Biggs (E); Extra-base hits: 2B: Atkins (SW) 2, Reid (SW) 2; Lebron