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LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES

Conejo Reaches U.S. Title Game

August 27, 2004|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Looking ahead almost caused the Conejo Valley baseball team from Thousand Oaks to get caught from behind Thursday night at the Little League World Series.

South Caroline from Preston, Md., brought a .131 batting average into the United States semifinal against Conejo Valley and the distinction of being the first team to advance out of pool play with a losing record since the tournament was expanded to 16 teams in 2001.

But those statistics didn't seem to matter against Conejo Valley, a team that had outscored its opponents, 22-3, in three games and was hitting .361.

Conejo Valley, playing its first night game here, slipped by Preston, 3-1, in front of 19,185 to advance to the U.S. championship game Saturday night against Lamar National of Richmond, Texas.

"I think everybody here is relieved a little bit," said Conejo Valley Manager Tom Ginther. "This is what happens with us when we get lost in the festivities."

Sean McInyre, who was coming off a two-hit shutout Monday against Northwest of Davenport, Iowa, was the key for Conejo Valley, giving up seven hits over five innings and driving in two runs.

"I felt really confident and I saw the ball well at the plate tonight," McIntyre said.

As he did against Davenport, McIntyre helped his cause by driving in the game's first run, doubling into the right-center field gap in the third inning to drive in Timmy Ginther, who had reached on a one-out bunt single.

Preston, which came into the game with only eight hits in 61 at-bats in the tournament, tied the score in the bottom of the fourth. Ben LaNeve doubled with one out, moved to third on a groundout and scored when Thomas Howe hit a grounder to first baseman Danny Leon and beat a late-breaking McIntyre to the bag.

Conejo Valley caught a break in the fifth, when Leon hit a high pop fly toward third base with one out, and Tyler Garvey was unable to get a glove on the ball. Leon barely beat the throw to second. McIntyre then lined an opposite-field single to left to drive in Leon for a 2-1 lead.

John Lister provided insurance in the top of the sixth with a solo home run to center, his third of the tournament and fifth in the last six games.

Ginther was able to save his No. 1 pitcher, Cody Thomson, until the sixth, when Thomson walked the leadoff hitter and needed 19 pitches to earn the save.

Thomson said he's looking forward to pitching against Richmond, which is batting .440 and has scored a tournament-best 51 runs in four games. He has thrown only five innings since Conejo Valley clinched the West Region title Aug. 12, and two since Sunday.

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Alan Camarillo hit a three-run homer in the 10th inning to lead Guadalupe, Mexico, to a 6-2 victory over Panama City, Panama, and a spot in the international final, in the longest game in Little League World Series history.

The game lasted 3 hours 50 minutes, breaking the record of 3:11 set by New Jersey and Michigan in 1998. That game -- and one between Kentucky and Texas in 2002 -- set the record for innings played with 11.

Mexico will play Willem Willemstad, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, in the international championship on Saturday

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Associated Press contributed to this report.

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