After his home run sailed over the left-field fence, Brock Myers raced around the basepaths as if he was running a 40-yard dash.
The soft-spoken, Myers played it cool later in front of reporters, but Tennessee manager Joey Hale insisted on giving the 12-year-old Myers and his clutch-hitting teammates the star treatment.
Jayson Brown broke a 5-5 tie by hitting a 1-2 pitch down the right-field line for a two-out, two-run triple in the top of the sixth, and Myers followed with his two-run shot to left to lift the team from Goodlettsville to a 9-6 win over the prolific sluggers from Petaluma, Calif., on Sunday at the Little League World Series.
Tennessee is unbeaten in the tournament, joining Texas in the US bracket after the San Antonio sluggers beat New Castle, Ind., 13-3.
In the international bracket nightcap, Japan’s Hajime Motegi hit a two-run blast to center with one out in the bottom of the ninth to beat Taiwan, 2-0. The 13-year-old Motegi was so happy as he rounded the bases that he jumped into the arms of his third-base coach down the line before even reaching the plate. Both teams dominated from the mound and flashed big league defense.
Panama started off Sunday’s action with an 8-3 over Canada to remain undefeated.
Hale’s team had a tougher time against a California club that slugged four homers on the afternoon. Petaluma’s powerful hitters are rarely out of any game the way they swing the bats, so Myers’ blast helped ease his skipper’s mind.
”They were pretty big . . . Brock. Going up by four, it was pretty nice,” Hale said.
Myers smiled briefly and shrugged his shoulders.
Brown, also 12, simply said afterward the big inning was ”pretty awesome.”
But the game was pretty tight going into the sixth, with 17,000 fans watching in the stands and millions more watching on national television.
After scratching out two first-inning runs on a fielder’s choice and passed ball, Petaluma turned up the power. Six-foot-three Bradley Smith, 12, got the spree started with a homer down the left-field line.
With two blasts in two games, Smith has already become one off the most feared hitters in South Williamsport.
”If you’re hitting the ball like that, you want him to step up to the plate as much as possible, but the rules only call for you to hit at certain times,” manager Eric Smith said.
Kempton Brandis and Porter Slate also homered on the afternoon, and Cole Tomei slugged a solo shot with two outs in the sixth.
Slate then draw a walk, but reliever Jake Rucker got a force at second to end the game — two batters before Smith’s place in the order.
”I wasn’t nervous at all,” Myers said. ”I knew Jake was going to get the next” out.
While the California kids were understandably down, Smith urged his players to shake it off the disappointment to start focusing on Monday’s elimination game against New Jersey.
”It’s a strong group of kids and we can hit the ball,” he said. ”We’re in any game.”
So is Tennessee, which also scratched out runs with aggressive baserunning.
Rucker went 3-for-4 with three runs, scoring on a passed ball and two fielder’s choices. He also earned the win in relief.
TEXAS 13, INDIANA 3: Jordan Cardenas hit his second homer of the tournament and Zachary Sanchez also went deep for Texas, which broke open a one-run game by scoring six in the fourth.
Texas’ top four hitters in Cardenas, Sanchez, Landry Wideman and Seth Morrow set the pace by combining to go 8 for 14 with nine runs and seven RBI.
The offensive outbreak in the sixth broke a 1-for-18 stretch with runners in scoring position.
"That happens all the time with this team," Texas manager Jack Wideman Jr. said. "I told the kids it’s a six inning game, we will fight through it."
Hunter McCubbins clubbed a two-run homer in the first for Indiana, which was must now play an elimination game Monday night against Connecticut.
Indiana manager Tim Porter isn’t worried. His team’s improbable run to the World Series began as the eighth seed at states.
"The bump in the road is almost expected with this team. The sun will come up tomorrow, we are playing a baseball game and we wake up in Williamsport," Porter said. "This is just a game, not the end of the world."
PANAMA 8, CANADA 3: James Gonzalez had two homers and six RBI, including a grand slam, for Aguadulce, Panama, After leaving the bases loaded and having a run taken off the board in the first due to a runner leaving early, Panama broke out for six in the second. Carlos Flavio started the outburst with a solo homer. Edisson Gonzalez also had an RBI single before James Gonzalez hit his grand slam against the Canada region champs from Vancouver.
James Gonzalez, 12, became the first Panama player to hit a grand slam and two home runs in the tournament.
Panama pitching limited a Canada team that scored 13 runs in a win Friday over Mexico. Edisson Gonzalez and Daniel Cruz combined for 13 strikeouts.
”That was probably the best pitching team we’ve seen. They had good fastballs and good breaking balls,” Canada manager Vito Bordignon said. ”We had difficulty adjusting today.”
JAPAN 2, TAIWAN 0: Ninth-place hitter Motegi clubbed the biggest hit of the night in a game in South Williamsport as Japan remain undefeated. It was the first time he had hit a homer to end a game.
"When I hit it, I didn’t realize it was going to be a home run," he said through interpreter Yuichi Ishibashi.
Japan and Taiwan combined for 30 strikeouts. Japan frittered away other chances late to win, including the eighth with the bases loaded and one out. But Taiwan reliever Cheng-Kai Hu came on to strike out the next two batters to get out of the jam.
Taiwan manager Cheng-Ta Lee said he wasn’t surprised by the ending given that his team also couldn’t come up with some big hits.
"I told the players to cheer up," he said through translator Sam Cheng. "It’s just the beginning of their baseball careers … Enjoy the moment here."