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Saudi Arabia gets off to quick start in Little League tourney

By RUSTY BRYAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 22, 2006

KUTNO, Poland — Saudi Arabia launched its quest for a seventh straight Little League European Region postseason tournament title with a four-inning, 13-0 mercy-rule victory Friday over Belgium.

“When I first started, I thought there’d be some pressure,” winning pitcher Michael Knight said about being entrusted to get the Arabian-American Little League team from Dharan rolling in Little League Baseball’s 2006 Transatlantic Regional tournament. “But after I started pitching, I didn’t feel anything.”

The Belgium champs from Brussels Little League didn’t get much of a feel for Knight, either. Knight struck out eight of the 13 batters he faced in his four innings of work and didn’t allow a hit. With Brussels trailing 13-0, Peter Oppenheim drew a one-out walk in the fourth to spoil Knight’s bid for a perfect game.

No harm done, though.

“I kind of laughed when I walked him,” Knight said.

The Saudi contingent had reason to be loose: It took a 2-0 lead in the first inning against starter Ryan Barr and put the game away with a five-run second in which 11 Saudi batters came to the plate against reliever Riku Iishe.

Nathan Barnett and Matthew Timoney hit two-run homers and 6-foot-4 first baseman Aaron Durley celebrated his 13th birthday on Friday with an RBI double and an RBI single in a 3-for-3 day.

Friday’s game, played at the Little League Baseball’s European Regional headquarters here, preceded the Transatlantic tournament’s official opening ceremony. Six teams are vying for this year’s Transatlantic berth in next month’s the Little League World Series at Williamsport, Pa.: Saudi Arabia, Brussels, Dubai, London, Naples and Ramstein, which in 1999 was the last team other than Saudi Arabia to win this event.

In Friday’s opening game of the round-robin, London blanked Dubai 10-0 in another mercy-rule game, while Naples and Ramstein were scheduled to play later in the day.

Three games are scheduled each day. The teams which compile the best records will square off in Wednesday afternoon’s semifinals. The Williamsport berth will be decided in Thursday’s 3 p.m. championship game.

Knight, who said he had his fastball, curve and change-up working Friday, hopes he’ll be returning to Williamsport for a second straight year.

“It’s fun there,” he said.


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