BANGOR — The West University Little League of Houston, Texas, pounded out 13 hits Wednesday night, and it turned out the U.S. Southwest champs needed every one of them.
The defending Senior League World Series champions had a four-run lead after five innings, only to see Edmonton, Alberta, fight back and make it interesting in the seventh before manager Trey Cornelius’ team held on for a 7-5 victory at Mansfield Stadium.
The win sets up a showdown at 5 p.m. today between Houston and host team Bangor with a spot in Friday’s semifinals at stake.
Houston led 6-0 after four innings thanks to a balanced offensive effort that included a two-run double by catcher Andrew Dunlap in the second and a two-run single by Luke Cone in the fourth.
But Canada, already eliminated from semifinal play, wouldn’t go down without a fight. It scored three times in the fifth to cut Houston’s lead in half and made Cornelius even more apprehensive with two more runs in the seventh.
But Josh King, Houston’s third pitcher of the game, was able to nail down the save for Tyler Gauntt, who earned the victory in relief.
“Josh hasn’t really pitched a lot for us this year, but his changeup really works because it’s such a speed difference and it gets [hitters] out in front,” Dunlap said. “His fastball builds off his changeup.”
Cone and Derek Brown had two hits apiece to spark the Houston offense while Matt Luna led off Texas’ two-run second inning with a double.
Another thing Cornelius will be scratching his head over was the fact his pitchers walked eight Canadian batters, including the bases loaded in the first.
“You get pretty tired of seeing guys just get a free ride on the basepaths, especially after Tuesday’s game,” he said. “I was a little tired of it.”
Starter Luna needed 56 pitches to work through the first two innings despite allowing no hits and five strikeouts. He gave way to Gauntt after a leadoff walk in the third.
The magnitude of Dunlap’s second-inning hit wasn’t apparent until the final out, as it was the difference in the game.
“We’ve been hitting consistently except last game against New Jersey — we held off until the later innings — but this game we put it on pretty good,” Dunlap said.
Canada, which was shut out in its first two contests, put together yet another strong offensive effort, and should return to its country with its collective heads held high.
“I think they played a really good game, that was a really good baseball team,” said Edmonton manager Greg Olsen. “I’m pretty proud of the guys today.”
Olsen’s club was sparked offensively by Pete Quenneville, who singled in a run in the fifth and doubled and scored in the seventh. Dalen Mineault singled home a run in the fifth and plated another with a grounder to shortstop in the seventh.
“They played a great game, they hit the ball hard, and they played great defense and when you do that, you’ll be in a lot of close games, and tonight was no different,” Cornelius said.
Canada (0-4) 000 030 2 -— 5 6 1
Southwest (2-1) 021 310 x — 7 13 0
Rosell and Davis; Luna, Gauntt (3), King (5) and Dunlap, Echols (3), Dunlap (5); WP-Gauntt (1-0); LP-Rosell (0-1); Repeat hitters: Quenneville (Can); Brown (SW), Cone (SW); Extra-base hits: 2B, Quenneville (Can); Waters (SW), Luna (SW), Dunlap (SW)