Lufkin takes on North Carolina in LLWS rematch
By BRANDON OGDEN
Aug. 25, 2017 at 10:49 p.m.
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — There have been several teams over the years that have won national championships in different sports on numerous levels.
The Lufkin Little League All-Stars will have a chance to be on that list when they take on Greenville, North Carolina, in the United States Championship game of the Little League World Series at 2:30 p.m. today.
"It's a great feeling," Lufkin manager Bud Maddux said. "We feel fortunate and just glad to be here. We've got to play a complete game — pitching, hitting and fielding — and we'll be fine."
"I've been wanting to be here since I was just a little kid, and now I'm in the United States Championship," team member Collin Ross said.
"It's great to be able to represent the United States," Lufkin catcher Chandler Spencer said. "I thought it was great to represent Texas, but now we're representing the United States, so it's a big step."
These teams just squared off on Wednesday, with North Carolina taking a 2-1 win in seven innings in front of 14,356 fans.
"I'm glad we get to face that team again," Ross said. "I want to beat them. I want redemption."
"We all wanted to have another chance to play Southeast, because we know we can beat them," Lufkin shortstop Blake Slaga said. "We didn't play as good as we normally do. Our bats weren't on fire like they normally are."
Lufkin was held to just one hit in Wednesday's contest — a third-inning double by Mark Requena. That's the only hit North Carolina has allowed in three games at the Little League World Series.
Slaga said that Richard Martinez — the head baseball coach and running backs coach at Huntington High School who also helped the Lufkin All-Stars at practice — told the team on Thursday to forget about Wednesday's game and focus on the next game.
"That's what we did," Slaga said.
Lufkin responded by recording 13 hits in a 14-4 win over Connecticut on Thursday.
Ross will take the mound today for Lufkin. This will be his first game to pitch since a 6-3 win over Connecticut on Sunday. Ross threw six innings and allowed one earned run on four hits with eight strikeouts.
Ross said watching teammate Hunter Ditsworth pitch against North Carolina should help him approach that lineup today.
"I know pretty much every kid, where their strong spot is and where their weak spot is, so I know where to pitch them," Ross said.
Chase Anderson is the expected pitcher for North Carolina. He has pitched 8 2/3 innings at the World Series, allowing one run on one hit — both against Lufkin — with 10 strikeouts and one walk.
Matthew Matthijs, who struck out the final 11 batters he faced in Wednesday's meeting, will be unavailable to pitch.
"Well, any time you don't have to see somebody like that, you're glad," Maddux said. "That boy was good. He was great, and they're a great team. We're ready to play them again."
The winner of today's game, which will be televised on ABC, will face either Japan or Mexico in the Little League World Series Championship at 2 p.m. Sunday. Japan and Mexico are playing at 11:30 a.m. today. The losers of both games will square off at 9 a.m. Sunday in the Little League World Series Consolation game.