Huntington Beach's Braydon Salzman overcame a line drive to the head… (Tom E. Puskar / Associated…)
Reporting from South Williamsport, Pa. — Braydon Salzman's baseball cap can take a line drive off the bill. And Salzman's confidence wasn't knocked off-kilter, either, in the third inning when a shot back up the middle left him momentarily woozy but did nothing to diminish his determination to keep playing.
Salzman was the winning pitcher and also went three for three at the plate as the Ocean View Little League team from Huntington Beach, the West champion, blasted New England champion Cumberland, R.I., 11-0, Friday in the Little League World Series at Lamade Stadium.
By winning its first game, Ocean View earned a day off Saturday and will play Sunday at 3 p.m. PDT against the North Oldham team from La Grange, Ky. The Great Lakes region winner defeated Mid-Atlantic champion Clinton County, Pa., 1-0.
In the bottom of the third inning Cumberland catcher Ryan McCormick hit a ball that was picking up speed when it left a bite-sized mark on the Ocean View pitcher's sweaty hat. It left a little mark on his forehead too, and Salzman dropped to the ground, if only for a moment.
Ocean View Manager Jeff Pratto said he didn't immediately rush out to the mound because he thought his pitcher had caught the ball.
"It hurt a little," Salzman said. "But then I was fine."
Ocean View combined 11 hits, flawless pitching and some exceptional defensive plays in the decisive first win.
Rhode Island Manager David Belisle also said he didn't see many weaknesses with Ocean View.
"I like the way they play defense, the way they approach hitting and the first two pitchers we saw, they were excellent," Belisle said. "They're going to be a team to be reckoned with. I think they would be one of my favorites to win this thing based on what I saw today."
Ocean View, after scoring single runs in the top of the first, second and fourth innings, put the game away with a six-run fifth that was a mishmash of wild pitches, walks and smart hitting.
The inning started when Steven Kotkosky walked and Jason Mayorga followed with a double. Kotkosky scored on an error on the play and, one out later, Salzman's single scored Mayorga. From there the Rhode Island players' shoulders seemed to slump.
Salzman said he wasn't nervous at all, though teammates Hagen Danner and Trevor Windisch both admitted to some butterflies early.
Pratto said he did see some signs that the big occasion affected his team early.
"We were having trouble hitting their pitcher at first," Pratto said. "We were nibbling too much on the outside. I saw guys a little tight in their swings. But our pitching kept us in the game until we settled down and got our bats going."
And as for that pitch from Salzman that resulted in the liner that whacked his hat? "It was supposed to be a curveball," Pratto said. "He threw a number five instead. A flat curve. Didn't work."
Almost everything else did though.
In international bracket games Friday, Canada defeated Saudi Arabia, 6-5, and Venezuela beat the Netherlands, 6-1.