Reporting from South Williamsport, Pa. — The assessment was simple.
"They're going to be tough to beat."
That's what Brad Bates, manager of the North Oldham Little League team from La Grange, Ky., said Sunday after his Great Lakes region championship team was beaten 10-0 by the Ocean View Little League team at the Little League World Series.
Ocean View has won its first two games by a combined score of 21-0. It has 23 hits in the two games and allowed five hits. It hasn't committed an error.
Now the West team will take its 2-0 record and get two days off before playing the surprise team of the tournament so far, Big Sky Little League from Billings, Mont., Wednesday. Game time is 5 p.m. PDT and will be aired live on ESPN.
No team from Montana has ever made it as far as the LLWS and the team from Billings won its way here by playing its region final at San Bernardino, where Ocean View also earned its trip east.
"We're good friends with them," Ocean View pitcher Hagen Danner said of Montana.
Even though Bates said of Danner, "He was outstanding," Danner struggled early. He walked two La Grange players in the bottom of the first inning and gave up a single and a walk to start the second inning.
After a pep talk on the mound, where Danner said his coaches told him to, "Throw the ball down the middle," Danner struck out the next three batters, one swinging and two looking.
Ocean View manager Jeff Pratto said while it wasn't Danner's best pitching night, he was proud of his starter.
"Hagen was trying to overthrow a little bit," Pratto said. "He was getting too far out in front. Yet, even without his best stuff, he dug in. A good pitcher can be successful without his best stuff."
Ocean View's offensive outbursts were significant in two five-run innings – the second and the fourth.
There weren't big, overwhelming home runs or triples, just lots of singles and doubles. Nick Pratto, the manager's son, was two for three and had two runs batted in. Ryo Takada had two RBIs with his one hit, catcher Braydon Salzman was two for three and infielder Jason Mayorga was two for two with an RBI.
Bates was also impressed by how Ocean View placed its hits. "They put the ball in the gaps and put the ball in play," Bates said. "It's a good way to play baseball."
Ocean View and Montana, which beat the Southwest team from Lafayette, La., 3-1 Sunday, are the last two undefeated U.S. teams.
Who's on first (or ESPN?)
Sunday's Ocean View game was scheduled to be on ESPN2. Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic were deep into a second set on ESPN2 at the 3 p.m. start time and Jankovic was up a break and appeared ready win in straight sets. She didn't.
So the baseball game was first moved to ESPN Classic, then (in the top of the third) to ESPN. The originally scheduled home for the game, ESPN2, did a post-game show and rebroadcast the five-run second inning.
Moral? Always read the crawl.