Michigan defeats Ohio for first Little League state title since 1959
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pennsylvania – Twice, Jackson Surma walked to the plate with running backs in scoring position in the biggest game of his young life. Both times he delivered.
Jackson drove in four runs and Ethan Van Belle struck out eight as Michigan beat Ohio 5-2 on Sunday in the Little League World Series championship game.
“The first one, I knew he had runners in second and third,” Jackson said. “There weren’t two outs, so I just needed something on the line. He threw a curve ball at me and I sat on it and steered it to the left. The second, he threw a high fastball at me and I went up and caught it. “
The Taylor North Little League team handed out the first LLWS title for the state of Michigan since 1959 when the Hamtramck National Little League won it all.
“We’re excited to be brought up with them,” manager Rick Thorning said. “Being in that group and saying a Michigan team won the LLWS still doesn’t sound good when you say it.”
Both Michigan and Ohio are from the Great Lakes, marking the only time clubs from the same region played in the championship. That was because international teams did not compete in LLWS for the first time since 1975, due to travel restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Little League allowed two squads from each US region to fill the 16-team field.
The pandemic also prompted heavy attendance restrictions, with just 1,017 entries on Sunday. The famous sliding hill behind Lamade Stadium was almost empty.
Michigan jumped to a three-run lead in the first after Jackson’s two-run single and a Jakob Furkas RBI ground. Jackson’s next hit, a single to center field, came in the fifth.
Ohio had many opportunities. He loaded the bases in the first with a pair of walks and a single by JJ Vogel, but Ethan struck out Levi Smith with two outs to end the threat.
The West Side Little League team in Hamilton, Ohio, played the bases again in the third with no one out. The next two batters struck out watching before Chance Retherford was eliminated at third base as he headed for the dugout after strike two.
Ohio got its first run in the second. Chase Moak led off with a triple and Cooper Clay hit it with a single to bring the score to 3-1.
Gavin Ulin came in to relieve Ethan in the fifth and got himself into a tight spot with runners at first and second with one out. It caused a double play groundout to come out unscathed.
In the sixth, Ohio reloaded the bases, when Gavin hit two of the batters and then walked in a run. But Chance flew to the center to end the game.
“I was a little nervous at the end. It was a great feeling after I got out of it, ”Gavin said. “When I hit that kid (to load the bases) and then I had to face his best hitter in the lineup, I was a little worried there. But once I got out of there, I had him open it, I was so happy.
“It is beyond words.”
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