Little League World Series Notebook: A major moments as Pirates, Cards look on

August 20, 2017

MAJORS WATCHING MINORS: In the top of the third inning, Pittsburgh Pirates players walked into Lamade Stadium and took some seats behind home plate.

Needless to say, the place went wild.

It’s not every day that major league baseball players settle down to watch a Little League game, but as Fairfield American and Lufkin, Texas, battled it out in a winner’s bracket game on Sunday morning, the Pirates — followed a few innings later by the St. Louis Cardinals — watched the kids play the game.

Pittsburgh and St. Louis were to play Sunday night in downtown Williamsport, at Bowman Field, a minor-league mecca that seats just 2,366.

The game took place to spotlight Little League’s International commitment to working with Major League Baseball to celebrate youth baseball and softball through its “Play Ball” initiative.

“It’s going to be great,” Fairfield manager Mike Randazzo said. “Seeing a major league game in a ballpark that small? Unbelievable.”

For the rest of the game, fans swarmed around the teams while Fairfield and Lufkin continued to play. Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen even took a turn in the ESPN booth.

“It’s going to be great,” Fairfield first baseman Tyler Bauer said. “It’s going to be great to see a major league game here in Williamsport.”

Added Ethan Righter: “I’m excited to get to see all of them play. I wanted to go and meet them, but we were playing so …”

Both teams couldn’t help sneaking peeks into the stands to see their major league heroes.

“It was kind of distracting. I kept looking up into the stands at them. I had to focus,” Righter said.

“It was really fun,” added Texas pitcher Collin Ross. “I’m excited to meet the players, I’ve never done anything like this before. It’s going to be great. Seeing them made me want to do better. I thought, ‘if they see me pitching well, maybe they’d tell their coach about me.’”

“I was definitely looking into the stands between innings,” Bauer said. “It was a little bit distracting but when the pitcher was ready, I knew I had to focus and get locked in.”

IN THE ZONE: After allowing four hits and three runs to Fairfield American in the opening two innings, Lufkin, Texas, pitcher Collin Ross knew something had to change.

So, he tweaked his arm motion and shut down the Fairfield bats.

“I started pitching a different way,” Ross said. “First, I was pitching over the top and I didn’t have as much velocity, but then I started lowering my arm and that worked a lot better.”

Indeed. Ross retired the last 15 Fairfield batters and finished with eight strikeouts and no walks in Lufkin’s 6-3 win.

“The kid pitched a good ballgame,” Lufkin manager Bud Maddox said. “He threw some pitches early but after the third inning, he kept his pitch count down and he finished the game. He pitched a good baseball game.”

GOING DEEP: After Fairfield American had scored three times in the second inning to take a 3-1 lead, Christian Mumphery decided to put a charge into one and get his teammates jumping.

He hit two home runs in Lufkin’s 6-3 win over Fairfield, the first coming in the bottom of the second that tied the game at 3-3 and the second came in the fifth that gave Texas a three-run cushion.

“I just knew I had to get the team fired up. Everyone’s heads were down so I knew I had to do something,” Mumphery said.

In his other at-bat, he sent a shot deep to left field that Anthony Pollack caught just in front of the wall.

“He really stepped up. He’s a good baseball player,”Maddox said. “He had been struggling a little bit but today, he came out swinging the bat really well in every at-bat he had. He just missed a third home run, that second time at bat. He was really on today.”

Chris Elsberry