Can you keep a secret? Springfield, Va., has virtually locked up a spot in the Little League World Series semifinals, but manager Jim Hamilton doesn't want to tell his team.
His only mistake Tuesday night was telling two dozen reporters about his plan. By the start of tonight's last round-robin game of the Series, everyone in Williamsport should know Springfield advances automatically if it gives up six runs or less to Northridge, Calif."As far as I'm concerned, they'll never know any different," Hamilton said.
Springfield practically sewed up the semifinal berth by beating Brooklyn Center, Minn., 4-1 Tuesday night. Even if it were to lose tonight and fall into a three-way tiebreaker, it's nearly a shoo-in because it's only given up two runs in 14 innings.
All United States teams are still alive for the semifinals and finals. Even Middleboro, Mass., which fell to Northridge 6-4 Tuesday and dropped to 0-2, could advance if it and Springfield win - depending on the scores.
Venezuela on Tuesday clinched one international semifinal berth, beating Taiwan 4-1. Saudi Arabia beat Taiwan 3-2 this morning to wrap up the other spot. Taiwan had made the finals in all but one of its previous 18 appearances. Teams from the European tournament had never beaten Taiwan.
Ronald Baptiste hit a two-run home run in the third to give Saudi Arabia a 3-1 lead over Taiwan. He also struck out 10, but had to work himself out of jams when Taiwan got runners to scoring position in the second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings.
Taiwan's Yu Chih-Feng opened the home first with a solo home run to right and the Saudis tied the game on John Schoenholtz' home run to left in the top of the second.
Baptiste gave up a two-out homer, to Wu Hsiu-Fan, in the fifth. Singles by Chen Hung-I and Huang Wei-Chih and an error put runners on second and third before Baptiste fanned Yu Chien-Fang.
In the sixth, Piao Chun-I singled but was doubled off first after Huang Kuo-Chang popped up a bunt to diving third baseman Chistopher Norseth. Baptiste fanned Shih Hsiang-Kai after giving up a single and walk to Chih-feng and Weng Mao-Ting.
The Saudi team is made of mostly of Americans whose families are in the Middle East country for employment.
Saudi Arabia beat Glace Bay, Nova Scotia 6-3 on Tuesday to knock the Canadians out of the tournament first.
Ethan Lare, who hit the game-winning home run in Springfield's victory over Middleboro Monday night, hit another homer Tuesday night and on the mound limited Brooklyn Center to three hits.
Springfield also turned two double plays behind Lare, one when Jermar Larkins lined to second baseman Mike Fratoe, who flipped to shortstop Paul Weishar to double off Eric Tauscheck.
"Major leaguers don't execute any better than that," Springfield coach George Lare said. "Both times, the Central (Minnesota) had an excellent chance to get some runs and we stopped them cold."
Brooklyn Center scored its only run in the fifth when Jason Erklouts singled, moved to third on a passed ball and a wild pitch, and scored on Dwayne Erickson's grounder back to the mound.