South Williamsport, Pa. — Tuesday’s rainout at the Little League World Series came at an ideal time for Peachtree City, the Southeast Region champion from Georgia.
The perfectly timed day off allowed Jansen Kenty, who had not been scored on in Peachtree City's series opener, to become eligible to pitch again.
Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores' Oliver Service and Jarren Purify tagged Kenty for home runs, but the lefty went the distance and tossed a four-hitter in Peachtree City’s 4-3 victory in an elimination game Wednesday at Lamade Stadium in front of a crowd of 5,983.
The loss ends the run by Grosse Pointe, which finished fourth in the U.S. bracket with a 2-2 record. The wins were the first two for a Woods-Shores team, which only had an international consolation game victory in its three previous appearances in Williamsport.
When it was over, Woods-Shores manager Kurt Barr declined to participate in the postgame press conference.
Peachtree City manager Patrick Gloriod acknowledged his good fortune when weather, which had threatened and caused delays throughout the tournament, finally forced a postponement.
“It helped us because it allowed us to put Jansen on the mound,” Gloriod said.
Kenty made sure he stayed there by pitching efficiently. He got his ninth strikeout with speedster Purify stuck at second base, recording the game's final out on what was going to be his final batter one way or another.
Pitching limitation rules, designed to protect young pitcher’s arms, had forced Kenty out of Peachtree City's only loss. He went 5.1 scoreless innings, striking out 12 in Friday’s 2-0, 11-inning loss to Honolulu, Hawaii.
Kenty once again arrived at the maximum 85 pitches with Grosse Pointe cleanup hitter Brennan Hill batting, but the rules allow him to complete the batter he is facing when the limit is reached. Kenty finished with 67 strikes, including the one that ended the game, in 90 pitches.
“I’m just worried about throwing strikes and trying to keep my pitch count low,” said Kenty, who said he tries not to think about the specific number of pitches much.
The power of Service and Purify, an excellent relief pitching performance from Reggie Sharpe, and more outstanding defense from Preston Barr and Service kept Woods-Shores within range of another comeback victory.
Woods-Shores won four tournament games — two before and two at Williamsport — in which it had trailed by four or more runs. Both World Series wins were by a score of 5-4 on runs in the bottom of the sixth after trailing 4-0 early.
Service and Sharpe made sure Wednesday’s deficit never got that large.
After Jack Ryan’s two-run single gave Peachtree City a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the first, Service tied the game in the second.
Cameron Schafer’s two-out infield single in the second gave Woods-Shores its first runner. The Peachtree City catcher could not handle a high foul popup by Service, who made the most of his second chance, lining the next pitch over the left-field fence in a hurry for a two-run homer to knot it at 2.
Sharpe was called on after Peachtree City scored again and loaded the bases with none out against Hill, the starting pitcher, in the second.
With the infield playing in, Barr fielded one ball hit right at him and threw home for a force. After the second of three ground balls that Sharpe induced allowed the only additional run to score, Barr went behind second base to field an inning-ending grounder.
If Barr had not been able to get the throw to first in time, Peachtree City would have extended the lead to 5-2. If the ball got past Barr, it would have been another four-run deficit.
Sharpe started with five straight groundouts and seven straight outs total in what turned into a four-inning scoreless relief appearance. He did not walk a batter and two of the three hits he allowed were infield singles.
In two long relief appearances during the series, Sharpe gave up just one run in seven innings, finishing with an 0.86 ERA.
With Sharpe in command on the mound, the Michigan and Great Lakes Region champions were not done.
Purify fouled off three 1-2 pitches and two full-count pitches before hitting one of the longest home runs of the series to left-center field, pulling Woods-Shores within a run, 4-3, with two outs in the third.
“(Eleven) pitches and then to finish off with a home run,” Gloriod said. “That was unbelievable.
“I was incredibly impressed with that at-bat.”
Service added one more clip to the defensive highlight reel Woods-Shores put together in Williamsport. He charged in and to his left, then extended himself to grab a line drive leading off the fifth.
When Peachtree City had two hits later in the inning, they caused no further damage.
Woods-Shores, however, was unable to get to Kenty. The only runner in 11 at-bats after Purify’s home run was when Purify batted again and singled up the middle with one out in the sixth.
“Jansen was struggling with his curveball a little bit,” Gloriod said. “That’s not typical of him. He was leaving it up.
“Once we gave up the second home run, we decided to jump pump fastballs and see if he they could hit it. He did a real good job with living in the zone, staying outside and being aggressive with it.”
Gloriod said the last thing he wanted to see was a third extra-inning game in four World Series outings for the Georgia champions.
Kenty made sure that was not necessary.
“Nothing rattles Jansen,” Gloriod said. “He’s very relaxed.
“He has the perfect demeanor and personality for a big game.”
Because of it, Peachtree City has another big game ahead and Grosse Pointe is heading home.
Tom Robinson is a freelance writer.