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Gray twins pitch, hit Rancho Santa Margarita to opening win in LLWS, 9-0

The second day of the Little League World Series started with rain Friday. Then it turned Gray, with twin brothers Bobby and Joey Gray pitching and hitting Rancho Santa Margarita to a 9-0 victory over Walla Walla, Wash., in the opening game for both teams.

Bobby Gray took a no-hitter into the final inning and his brother drove in five runs with a grand slam in the first inning and a single in the third.

And neither one of them was playing to his strength.

Back home in Orange County, Joey said, the roles usually are reversed.

“I think I’m the better pitcher,” said Joey, who played third base Friday.

Said Bobby: “He’ll throw more strikes. And I’ll hit it harder. When we come to the games, we have that same level of competitiveness.”

Joey may get his chance on the mound Sunday when Rancho meets Greensville, N.C., which beat Sioux Falls, S.D., 6-0 in Friday’s late game. If he does, he’ll have a tough act to follow since Bobby gave up just one hit in 5 1/3 innings, striking out seven. He allowed only three other baserunners, on two walks and a hit batter.

That performance was a lot smoother than Rancho’s pregame preparation. Because of the rain, which caused two of Friday’s four games to be rescheduled, the team had to rush its warmups

“We were extremely late to the batting cages,” coach C.J. Ankrum said. “There was some confusion on whether we were going to play at 4 or weren’t going to play at 4.”

Despite that, Ankrum said he kept his focus on his team and not the weather reports.

“I didn’t even think about it. I didn’t even care about it,” he said. “It is what it is. If we’re going to play, we’re going to play. If we’re not, we’re not. You can’t sit there and stress about it.

“Weathermen are the only other thing besides professional baseball players that can be right 30% of the time and make millions of dollars. So I didn’t really worry too much about what they were saying. We knew we were going to get it in.”

Batting practice was another story, with the rain limiting the players to seven pitches apiece. Joey Gray saw almost that many in his first at-bat, which ended with him lining a full-count fastball over the right-field fence.

Rounding the bases, Joey said, “was amazing.”

He finished 2 for 2 with a walk and two runs scored. Mason Kellerman scored two runs and drove in another. Drew Rutter reached base three times with two hits and walk, scoring three runs.

All that support allowed Bobby Gray to relax after a tough first inning in which he threw 22 pitches.

“I thought he did a phenomenal job,” Ankrum said. “Remember, they’re 12 years old.”

Rancho also may have gotten a break in that it didn’t have to face Brixen Betzler, one of Walla Walla’s best hitters. Betzler was rushed to the hospital Thursday night after the tip of his right pinkie was torn off when it got caught in a door frame.

He watched Rancho’s win from his team’s dugout.

“The first game’s always the toughest,” said Rutter, playing in his fifth tournament of the summer for Rancho, which has yet to lose in 17 games. “If you win, it gives you a little confidence, a momentum boost.

“I hope we can take that into the second game.”

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Follow Kevin Baxter on Twitter @kbaxter11


UPDATES:

6 p.m.: This article has been updated with more details and quotes.

This article was originally published at 3:20 p.m.

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