KMC all-stars look to bounce back after rough start in Little League World Series
August 21, 2010
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — It was quite the first 24 hours for the Kaiserslauten Military Community in the Little League World Series.
KMC rode in an opening parade in front of 40,000 people in downtown Williamsport, met astronaut Terry Virts, a former Air Force Colonel once stationed at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany, and played its opening game against Manati, Puerto Rico, at Volunteer Stadium.
The last part didn’t go so well for KMC, which fell 11-0 in four innings to Manati, managed by the father of former major league infielder Jose Valentin.
On Saturday, KMC looked ahead to its consolation-round game against Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, the Mexican region champion. KMC needed to win that game, which started at noon EDT Sunday, to stay alive. A loss would eliminate KMC and sent it to an exhibition game Monday.
“It’s what we expected here, and we knew it would be better than what we saw in Europe,” KMC manager Gary Harrington said. “We can hit better than we did, but the most disappointing thing is the errors that led to big innings.”
Manati hit five home runs off KMC starter Mackenzie Mueller and relievers Tyler Ullman and Pierce Tujo. A throwing error by Mueller on a second-inning grounder put two runners on base, setting up Yomar Valentin’s three-run home run that triggered a five-run inning for a 7-0 Manati lead. Victor Valentin and Bryan Figueroa also homered. Both Valentins and first baseman Javier Rodriguez are grandsons of manager Jose Valentin.
Victor Valentin hit a two-run homer in the third and Joshuan Sandoval ended the game with a two-run shot in the fourth.
Mueller, the lone returnee from KMC’s 2009 LLWS qualifier, took the loss, allowing seven runs on five hits in 1 2/3 innings. Kaleb Stokes collected KMC’s lone hit Friday, a third-inning single to left. Mueller also reached when he was hit by a pitch.
The players met Virts at a picnic Thursday evening before the parade. Virts, who coaches Little League in Texas, also spent time at the International Space Station this year.
“He wished the boys good luck, and as a coach he understands what it’s like to get where we are today,” Harrington said. “We’re good enough to make it here. We earned our spot and deserve to be here.”
KMC drew arguably the toughest bracket, playing in a pool with regions that have won the past six International titles in the Caribbean, Mexico and Japan. The Japanese and Caribbean teams were to play in a winner’s Pool C game Sunday evening.
“You win a championship here, you have to win them all anyhow,” Harrington said. “We have to get our bats and pitchers going. Who knows — maybe we’ll pull off a couple wins and get back in it.”