WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — It was billed as a meaningless tuneup for today's semifinals at the 47th Little League World Series, but after the Long Beach All-Stars routed Bedford, N.H., 21-1, Wednesday morning, the result suddenly seemed more significant.
Long Beach, which started four reserves and two pitchers who hadn't thrown in nearly two months, had 15 hits and four home runs, while Bedford, which managed only two hits, looked overmatched. Only five balls were hit out of the infield.
Because of the way the tournament was bracketed, Long Beach and Bedford had already clinched spots in today's 1:30 p.m. PDT semifinal. But Wednesday's scheduled game between the two had to be played and both viewed it as a chance to play reserves.
Long Beach led, 11-0, after 1 1/2 innings. It was stunning considering that Bedford had not given up a run in its last two games and was 16-1 overall.
Three of the four Long Beach home runs were hit by backup players, including a grand slam by Travis Perkins that highlighted a five-run second inning.
"We got beat by a very good team from California, probably the best hitting team we've ever seen," Bedford Manager Greg Joseph said.
Bedford started five reserves and went through four pitchers. The score could have been worse, but Long Beach Coach Jeff Burroughs held several runners at third base on passed balls or wild pitches and stopped several more who could have scored easily on hits by their teammates. Manager Larry Lewis pulled the team's leading hitters, Sean Burroughs, Kevin Miller and Brady Werner, after three innings.
Still, it was the biggest margin of defeat a U.S. team has taken since 1987, when Taiwan defeated the Northwood Little League of Irvine, 21-1, in the series final.
Left-hander Kevin Miller, who usually plays first base, pitched the first three innings for Long Beach and yielded only two hits, Bedford scoring its run in the second inning. Twin brother Chris Miller, a right-hander, pitched the final three innings.
Jeff Burroughs downplayed the result.
"I think they're laying in the weeds for us," he said.
Joseph said he did not tell his players to take it easy Wednesday. But he did save the team's top two pitchers, including Thomas Beyer. Beyer, a finesse pitcher, threw a no-hitter Tuesday in a 1-0 victory over Richmond, Va., and will probably start today. Long Beach is primarily a fast-ball hitting team.
Long Beach has Sean Burroughs, who struck out 16 and threw his own no-hitter in an 8-0 victory over Hamilton, Ohio, on Monday.
Lewis said he may start Brady Werner today and only bring Burroughs in if there's trouble. That way, Burroughs would be available for Saturday's championship game on national television against the winner of the international bracket, if the team advances.
Jeff Burroughs said he was saddened by the way things went Wednesday.
"I don't get a thrill beating a team like that," he said. "I don't have a happy feeling right now like I would if it was a good, tight 6-4 ballgame."
Joseph, who took the loss with a smile, said he would see what he could do to make Burroughs feel better today.
Kaiserslautern, Germany, a team made up of dependents of U.S. servicemen, and Panama, which received a last-second invitation after the Dominican Republic was disqualified for using over-age players, meet today at 10:30 a.m. in the international bracket final.
Kaiserslautern defeated Panama, 5-1, in pool play Wednesday. The international winner plays either Long Beach or Bedford, N.H., in Saturday's final.