Montana, Mexico advance to LLWS bracket finals

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Ben Askelson hit a high 0-1 curveball onto the hill beyond the left field fence to send the boys from Billings, Mont., into the U.S. final of the Little League World Series with a 1-0, seven-inning victory over Huntington Beach, Calif., on Wednesday night.

Montana gets to rest up until the U.S. championship game Saturday, while California must face Clinton County, Pa., today.

Both teams had chances to prevent the game from going into extra innings. California couldn't break through after loading the bases with two outs in the top of the sixth.

The early game was close, too, with Mexico beating Venezuela 2-1 to advance to the international final. Bruno Ruiz's ninth-inning homer was the difference.

Montana and California were locked in a pitchers' duel until Askelson's big shot.

California starter Nick Pratto struck out nine over four innings, while Montana counterpart Cole McKenzie struck out four over 5 innings, aided by timely defense. He wiggled out a couple jams, including a bases-loaded threat in the second that ended with a runner thrown out at home following a passed ball.

California loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth on two walks and a hit batter, but the Montana fans breathed a collective sigh of relief after Hagen Danner lined the first pitch from reliever Sean Jones right to Askelson in left for the inning-ending out.

In the opener, Ruiz's homer to center off a 2-0 pitch in the ninth broke up another pitchers' duel.

A smiling Ruiz cringed while getting bombarded by teammates with pats on his green helmet after crossing the plate.

Venezuela will play Japan today, while Mexico can rest up for Saturday after reliever Jorge Jacobo closed out the victory by inducing a groundout. Friends and family serenaded their players with songs in Spanish after the dramatic win.

Starter Keny Marquez struck out seven over six innings and Yonny Hernandez had an RBI double for Venezuela, which lost for the first time in the postseason.

Share This Story