BANGOR, Maine — The Western Little League of Grand Rapids, Mich., used a last-inning rally to win its opening game at the Senior League World Series on Sunday evening.
The U.S. Central entry flirted with the other side of that scenario Monday before holding off Maine District 3 champion Hampden 8-5 in a Pool A contest at Mansfield Stadium.
Grand Rapids led 8-1 through six innings before withstanding a Hampden rally in the top of the seventh that brought the tying run to the plate with one out before reliever Brad Buurstra extricated himself from the jam.
“It’s the end result [that counts],” said Grand Rapids manager George Rosinski, “and I was just hoping it wasn’t going to be deja vu.”
The Michigan team (2-0) will continue pool play at 1 p.m. Tuesday against Latin America champion Guatemala City, Guatemala, just before the 5 p.m. game between Hampden (1-1) and U.S. East qualifier Auburn, Mass.
Leadoff hitter Brad Burns led Grand Rapids against Hampden with two singles, two runs scored, two RBIs and two walks — both after falling behind 0-2 in count — in four plate appearances.
Parker DeVoogd and Kyle Mroz also singled twice apiece as part of an 11-hit offense by the winners, who also had four successful sacrifice bunts, two bunt singles and got four of their runs from runners who had reached base via walks.
“They played small ball, they took a page out of our book,” said Hampden manager Basil Closson, whose team used similar tactics during its 9-1 victory over Montreal on Sunday. “I commend them. They played just the same way I would have played the game.”
The District 3 squad, which consists of players from Hampden, Hermon, Winterport and Glenburn, also had 11 hits, but Grand Rapids pitchers Devin Hustad, Zac Zobro and Buurstra issued just one walk and hit one batter.
Cody Varney had a bunt single and two infield hits for Hampden, while Tristan Gardner and Michael Ward each singled twice and Matt Palmer and Matt Martin each had two RBIs.
Burns drew a seven-pitch walk from Hampden starter Cody Lyons to open the bottom of the first, then DeVoogd had a bunt single and Hustad sacrificed the runners to second and third before Burns scored on Buurstra’s sacrifice fly to shallow right.
The U.S. Central champions extended their lead to 3-0 on Burns’ two-out pop single to shallow center in the bottom of the second — a fly ball that diving Hampden center fielder Matt Closson had until the ball popped out of his glove as he hit the ground.
Hampden got one run back in the top of the third as Gardner hit a two-out single to center and scored on Palmer’s double to deep center.
Grand Rapids answered with two runs in the bottom of the inning.
Buurstra singled to left and went to third as Mroz hit a one-out single to center and Zobro reached on a bunt single he popped over the head of Hampden reliever Cody Varney.
Buurstra scored on a passed ball, and Mroz came home on Nick McNamara’s single to left.
Grand Rapids sent nine batters to the plate in the fourth, scoring three runs without benefit of a hit thanks to four walks, a hit batter, one Hampden error and a sacrifice to extend its lead to 8-1.
“What we learned before is that you’ve got to get on them early or you have to walk off at the end,” said Hustad, who allowed one run on seven hits over 4⅔ innings to earn the pitching win. “What we tried to do was score early, and as a pitcher I just tried to hit my spots and let our bats do the work.”
But Hampden wasn’t finished, sending nine batters to the plate in the final inning to instill some trepidation in the otherwise upbeat Grand Rapids fan contingent.
Andrew Elston hit a leadoff single to center and Closson walked before a bunt single by Varney loaded the bases with no one out and brought Buurstra in to relieve Zobro on the mound.
Gardner was hit by a pitch to force home one run, and Palmer followed with a sacrifice fly to left to close the gap to 8-3. Martin then hit an opposite-field single to right to drive home Varney and Gardner, and when Ward followed with a ground a single to left, the tying run came to the plate.
But Buurstra buckled down, inducing a strikeout and a foul pop-out to end the game.
“At one point I’m thinking let’s not get 10-runned,” said Basil Closson. “If we could just hang in there at 8-1 and see what happened … Those kids battled, and when things got rolling there was unbelievable crowd support and the kids fed off that and made it interesting for them.”