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LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES

Conejo Valley Defeats Richmond for U.S. Title

August 29, 2004|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — The lesson plan was simple, according to Conejo Valley pitcher Cody Thomson: Don't make it easy for Lamar National of Richmond, Texas, to crush the baseball the way it had the last eight days at the Little League World Series.

Thomson followed his simple strategy to near perfection Saturday night, throwing a one-hitter and striking out 12 to lead Conejo Valley to a 4-0 victory over Richmond in front of 28,574 in the U.S. championship game.

"I just knew I had to be on my A-game tonight," Thomson said. "Keep the ball down to their hitters because, one through nine, everybody can hit."

With the victory, Conejo Valley (22-0 overall) of Thousand Oaks earned the opportunity to take home a world title when it plays Willemstad (Curacao) today at 3:30 p.m.

Regardless of what happens, Conejo Valley Manager Tom Ginther said he would point to the victory over Richmond as the coup de grace.

"This is the granddaddy of them all," Ginther said.

Richmond came into the game having scored 51 runs in four games here. It was also tops in home runs (nine) and team batting average (.440).

But Thomson, a hard-throwing right-hander with a three-quarter delivery, never flinched. He worked out of a jam in the second inning, thanks to a 3-6-4 double play, then struck out the last two batters in the fourth with runners on first and second. Thomson retired the last eight hitters, seven by strikeout.

Randal Grichuk of Richmond, who came into the game leading all players at the tournament with a .769 average and four home runs, struck out for the third time to end the game.

"That was probably my best game I ever pitched," Thomson said.

Conejo Valley did its part at the plate, putting at least one runner in scoring position in every inning, including the leadoff batter in four of the six.

Tyler Karp opened the second inning by hitting a hard line drive off the glove of third baseman Dustin Moehlig. With runners on second and third, Thomson grounded a single up the middle, scoring Karp, but John Lister ran through Ginther's stop sign at third and was thrown out at the plate. Hayden Cronenbold then drove in Thomson with a single to center, giving Conejo Valley a 2-0 lead.

Cronenbold made a nice play at third base in the bottom of the second. With runners on first and second and none out, Cronenbold fielded a slow roller on the grass, turned and dived headfirst to his bag to force out Daniel Homann. Thomson then induced Moehlig to hit into the inning-ending double play.

Danny Leon began the third by hitting a grounder under the glove of shortstop Christian DeLeon and taking second on an error by center fielder Cody Abraham. Sean McIntyre struck out, but Leon advanced to third on a passed ball on the third strike.

Jordan Brower then lofted a soft fly ball over third base that Moehlig caught, but Leon was able to tag up and score the game's third run when Moehlig slipped as he was preparing to throw home.

In the sixth, Lister opened the inning by reaching on a two-hopper. He moved to second on a wild pitch and third on a passed ball and scored when Derrick Francis hit another hard grounder off the glove of first baseman Tyler Ford, which was ruled an error.

*

Carlos Pineda and Dimitri Eugenia homered, and Jurickson Profar threw a one-hitter to lead Willemstad to a 4-0 victory over Guadalupe, Mexico, in the international final played in front of 18,380.

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