SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Win or lose, the Little League World Series team from Uganda has become a hometown favorite.
The first team from Africa to advance to South Williamsport in the 66-year history of the tournament lost in its debut Friday. Aguadulce, Panama, defeated the boys from Lugazi, 9-3.
Uganda’s coaches said they didn’t expect any parents of the players to make the expensive transatlantic trip to Pennsylvania. But Uganda has drawn vocal fans who cheered wildly, especially after Daniel Alio’s towering home run to center field in the sixth inning.
“I thought I wouldn’t hit a home run,” the soft-spoken Alio said. “But my coach told me to make contact.”
Canada, Texas and Indiana also won on Day 2 of the youth baseball tourney.
Alio and his teammates, though, were the biggest stars. Manager Henry Odong said they’re proud to represent Africa, where baseball is an emerging sport but not nearly as popular as soccer.
“The rest of Africa is behind us,” Odong said in recounting his message to players after early struggles at the plate. “People are watching … just make contact.”
Panama’s Julio Goff struck out seven and allowed one hit over 22/3 innings in drawing the starting assignment.
“Pitching here against Uganda, with that crowd, it made it very hard,” Goff said through interpreter Antonio Gonzalez, “but thank God that we won.”
Indiana 4, Oregon 0: New Castle, Ind., broke a scoreless tie with Greshem, Ore., in the bottom of the fifth with the help of a bunt single, two wild pitches and Mason Gillis’ check-swing double that trickled down the right-field line.
In short, the hustling Indiana quad played small ball to perfection.
Cory Murphy got the rally started with a single to center. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt before scoring on two wild pitches.
Starter Greg Mehlhaff struck out seven for Oregon before being lifted after Indiana broke through in the fifth.
Texas 5, New Jersey 2: Jordan Cardenas homered and pitched 2 innings of hitless relief, and San Antonio took advantage of defensive miscues to beat Parsippany, N.J.
Canada 13, Mexico 9: Outfielder Thomas Neal’s lunging catch saved an extra-base hit and helped Vancouver, British Columbia, beat the team from Nuevo Laredo. The teams combined for 27 hits, but Canada also made several defensive gems.