SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Chad Knight said he was on edge. It never showed as he laced the biggest hit of his young life.
Knight lined a run-scoring single to left field in the bottom of the seventh inning, and Westport, Conn., beat Northwest champion Sammamish, 14-13, in a wild game Friday to earn a spot in the U.S. championship game at the Little League World Series.
“I was really just speechless because for us to compete and battle back was just amazing,” said Knight, who also hit a solo homer to cap a seven-run rally in the fifth that tied it at 13. “It was our biggest comeback all year.
“I went to the plate and I was a little nervous, but then I realized it was just any other at-bat. I just had to go out and put the ball in play.”
Connecticut beat Sammamish for the second time in a week to advance to play Chula Vista, Calif., on Saturday for a berth in the title game. Tijuana, Mexico, will face Tokyo for the international title. The World Series championship is Sunday.
That crushing nine-inning loss to Chula Vista on Wednesday night was quickly forgotten when Knight’s ball landed safely, setting off a wild celebration near the pitcher’s mound at Howard J. Lamade Stadium
The game marked the fourth time in Little League World Series history that two teams combined for 27 runs, and the 30 hits were the third-most in history.
Charlie Roof started the winning rally by drawing a leadoff walk, and Ricky Offenberg hit a one-out double down the left-field line. With five Washington players manning the infield and playing in, Max Popken then hit a one-hopper that Sammamish shortstop Jack Carper stabbed with pinch-runner Christopher Drbal breaking for home.
Offenberg ran into Carper as the Washington player began to make a play for Drbal, who was tagged out in a rundown. Interference was called on Offenberg, leaving Drbal at third and Popken at first with two outs, and Knight followed with his winning hit.
“I’m so proud of the kids, I can’t even tell you,” Sammamish’s manager Rob Chandler said. “We had extra infielders in. We were trying to do everything to win the game. Should I have walked Chad Knight? No, I shouldn’t have. I wouldn’t walk Knight if given a chance again. I would try to strike him out again.”
Washington scored 10 runs in the fourth on 11 hits to take what seemed like a commanding 12-5 lead, pounding a World Series record-tying eight consecutive hits off Westport starter Harry Azadian.
Adam Carper, Dylan Matsuoka, Jack Carper, and Dalton Chandler each had RBI singles for Sammamish, and Will Armbruester added a two-run single. Zack Olson tripled home two more and also added a run-scoring double later in the fourth inning.
Undaunted, Connecticut stormed back with seven runs in the bottom of the fifth, hitting three home runs to tie it at 13.