Saturday, August 18, 2007

Walpole Wins Little League World Series Opener

When your 12 years old, most kids are getting ready for high school, hanging out with their friends and just being kids. Things are much different for the kids who play sports at a high level.

If you play baseball or hockey at Triple A level, then a lot of pressure is thrust upon you. It becomes more than just a game. Parents and coaches are focused more on winning than their kids, and many kids do this and end up hating the sport. Many of the kids who don't end up hating the sports won't make it in the professional ranks. But there are a select few who fight through the tough times and get a future in their sport. It was obvious to the crowd at the Little League World Series Opener yesterday that Michael Rando is one of those kids.

The Walpole Americans were facing the Great Lakes regional representative West Side of Hamilton, Ohio yesterday. The Americans were down 1-0, heading into the top of the sixth. Through five innings, Great Lakes starter Kyle Cotcamp had allowed just two hits and struck out nine.

But Walpole’s Matt Bender hit a one-out single to right, with P.J. Hayes pinch-running for him. A wild pitch moved Hayes to second, then Great Lakes decided to intentionally walk Adams. Another wild pitch then put both runners in scoring position for Johnny White. White fell behind in the count before working it full. He then stroked one over the left fielder’s head for a double that scored Hayes and Adams. Mike LaVita greeted new pitcher Tyler Richards with a single to move Adams up a base before Sam Falkson laid down a bunt for a base hit that scored White for a key insurance run and a 3-1 lead.

Then, in the bottom of the 6th, John Cornett came up with 1 man on and 2 out. He hit a 226 foot blast to centre fielder Micheal Rando. Rando tracked it and came to the wall. He jumped and stuck his glove out, hoping he would catch it. He did. Before he even touched the ground, he had the ball in his hand, showing it to the amazed crowd. His teammates mobbed him at centre. "I thought I had a chance to rob it," said Rando, still clutching the ball in his hand during postgame interviews. "I knew it was going out, but I thought I had a chance to rob it - so I went back to the fence and I caught it."

"I couldn’t believe it," said Rando.

The victory gives Walpole American (20-1), the New England representative, a 1-0 record in Pool A play - while also handingWest Side its first loss of the summer. Walpole has today off, returning to action tomorrow.

For more on the Little League World Series, see ESPN Little League World Series 2007

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