Logan LaCourse has been through Pony League World Series games before so nerves should not have been a problem for the Bay County, Mich., 14-year-old.
But forecasting what will happen in these pressure-packed games is not always that easy.
LaCourse uncharacteristically struggled through the first inning, then was nearly unhittable over the next six as Bay County, Mich., rallied from a two-run deficit to take a 4-2 victory from Johnstown Friday at Lew Hays Pony Field in Washington Park.
Bay County, the North Zone champion, will play again Monday at 5:30 p.m. Johnstown will play Sunday at 5:30 p.m.
LaCourse, who played left field on last year’s team, allowed only two hits over the final six innings and only three base runners over the final four. He struck out 15 and walked one
“He was throwing pretty good,” said Bay County manager Dan Revette. “I know he’s fast, but I never timed (his fastball).”
Bay County had lost five straight Pony League World Series games, including being swept last year and in 2010. Johnstown saw its losing streak reach six, including 0-2 marks in 2010 and 2012.
In a shaky first inning, LaCourse put the first three runners on base. Left fielder Hogan Helsel beat out an infield hit and Gooden got on via an error. Shortstop Adam Cecere walked to load the bases and catcher Mike Roper beat out an infield hit that scored Helsel. Two outs later, third baseman Grant Norris walked with the bases loaded to make it 2-0.
“(LaCourse) was a little nervous and so were our infielders,” said Revette. “But I figured if we got runs for him, we’d be fine.”
Manager Josh Day felt Johnstown needed to do more in that first inning.
“Yeah, we needed to push a couple more runs across,” said Day. “What helped (LaCourse) was that he established his breaking ball. He threw an excellent game.”
But Bay County cut the lead to 2-1 in the third and LaCourse seemed to settle down, striking out the side.
Left fielder Tyler David line a shot past the ear of Gooden and into center field to lead off the inning. One out later, second baseman Matt Fisher put down a perfect bunt down the third base line for a single that moved David to second. Right fielder Ryan Miller then sent a fastball into center field to drive in David. Gooden got out of the inning by striking out the next two batters.
David tied the game in the fourth when he singled in first baseman Seth Gower, who made it to second on a single and an error.
Bay County broke it open with two runs in the sixth off reliever Tyler Mulhollen. Catcher Nick Dardas hit a ball off the top of the fence for a double to lead off the inning. Third baseman Cory Langenburg then laid down a sacrifice bunt that Mulhollen threw down the right field line for an error that scored Dardas. Gower singled home Langenburg.
“I told our kids that we’re a young team,” said Day, pointing out that he has nine 13-year-olds on the roster. “I’m proud of the effort. We’ve been in this position before, so we just have to fight back.”