Taylor North rolls past Texas, earns rematch with Hawaii in LLWS

By Tom Robinson
Special to The Detroit News

South Williamsport, Pa. — Taylor North handled one rematch to set up another.

The Michigan and Great Lakes champions swept Wylie from Abilene, Texas, out of the Little League Baseball World Series with a 15-6 victory Thursday afternoon.

Taylor North pitcher Jackson Surma celebrates after getting the final out of a 15-6 win over Abilene, Texas, on Thursday at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

The win sends Taylor North into Saturday’s Hank Aaron bracket championship game against Honolulu.

“The kids were excited to get back to play baseball,” Taylor North manager Rick Thorning said of the quick turnaround after his team’s first loss, 2-0, Wednesday night against Hawaii. “We felt that was a good game (Wednesday) that we knew we were in.

“We made a couple mistakes and we knew we could get a chance to play them again, but we had to take care of (Thursday) first.”

Take care, they did.

Unlike Monday’s 6-5 comeback victory from five runs down, Taylor North was in control throughout, scoring the game’s first 11 runs Thursday and making a bid to end the game on the 10-run rule during both the top of the fourth and bottom of the fifth innings.

Jakob Furkas and Jackson Surma started and ended the game with strong pitching performances and combined to lead the offense throughout.

Surma had three doubles, three RBIs and two runs as the team pounded out 14 hits, seven of them for extra bases.

Furkas was 3-for-3 with two runs and an RBI.

Cameron Thorning hit his second home run of the tournament, a two-run shot, added a double and scored three times.

Noah Boren added a two-run double to cap the three-run first and Jason Shufeldt also had a hit and two RBIs.

Just 20 hours after having potential base hits repeatedly taken away by a splendid Hawaii defensive effort, Taylor North kept hitting the right spots.

For Surma, the swings were not much different to go 3-for-4 than they were in Wednesday’s 0-for-2 with a lineout and deep flyout.

“I was hitting the ball really well (Wednesday),” he said. “They were just making good plays.”

An eight-run third inning built the lead to 11-0, but the 10-run rule is not invoked until the end of the fourth inning and Texas extended the game by breaking up the Furkas no-hitter and scoring six times.

Surma provided the perfect response to the six-run rally.

“When they do that, you want to make sure the next inning, you come out and shut it down,” manager Thorning said. “Jackson was ready to go. He pitched against them last time and he wanted to get back out there and face them again.

“I had another pitcher warming up, but I said, ‘Let’s go to Jackson, he’s amped up and ready to go’. We got him ready and he did a good job. He stopped the bleeding there.”

Surma threw 20 of 28 pitches for strikes in two spotless innings that included four strikeouts.

Furkas retired nine out of 10 after the first batter of the game reached on an error. After the first two batters reached on hits to start the fourth, he came out as part of the effort to have pitching available this weekend for the final two days of the tournament.

If Taylor North can avenge its only loss, it will reach Sunday’s 3 p.m. championship game. South Dakota is in the Tom Seaver bracket final Saturday against Ohio, which beat California in the late game on Thursday.

Manager Thorning is looking forward to another game against Hawaii after the teams’ pitching and defense limited Wednesday’s game to five hits and two runs.

“I’m excited to play them,” he said, pointing to what he described as just two minor mistakes by his team. “It was a pretty phenomenal game. It was one of the better games I’ve been a part of in a long time when you see pitching like that on both sides and defense like that.

“ … I’m excited to get back to them and see if we can play our ‘A’ game and see what we can do.”

Saturday’s losers will play Sunday morning at 10 for third place.

Tom Robinson is a freelance writer.