SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- It was the game everyone wanted to see, even Dragons manager Alex Rice.
It was just the outcome he didn’t like.
The Dragons fell 6-5 to Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West League All-Stars, the other media darling of the Little League World Series.
It is Chicago who will advance the Saturday’s U.S. Championship game. The Dragons will return home (see game story).
Timely hitting -– and stranding runners on base -- doomed the Dragons, just as it did in their only other loss of the tournament.
Lamade Stadium’s crowd was as balanced as it’s been since the tournament began. Whereas Taney had most of the support in Wednesday’s win, Chicago had a large and vocal fan base Thursday.
The game was delayed about 30 minutes by rain. Likely because of that, the crowd of 21,118 was far smaller than Wednesday’s.
Starting pitching report
In a surprise move, Erik Lipson started on the mound for the Dragons in place of their usual No. 2 pitcher, Jared Sprague-Lott.
Lipson struggled early, loading the bases with no outs and giving up four runs in the first inning alone. He was charged with an error that inning, too, when a bad throw to first base resulted in two Chicago runners reaching home plate. Chalk that up to the fact that “Lippy” hasn’t seen much action in the field this week -- he’s spent most of his time in games pitching in relief.
He lasted two innings, and was pulled after his 45th pitch. He gave up six runs on four hits, and had three strikeouts.
Jared Sprague-Lott came into the game in relief of Lipson. He pitched the remainder of the game and fared a lot better than Lipson, allowing no runs.
At the plate
Jack Rice’s first-inning two-run single gave the Dragons the early lead, though Chicago overtook them later in the inning.
The Dragons added two more runs in the fourth inning, when Zion Spearman’s single scored Scott Bandura and Lipson. Kai Cummings’ home run led off the fifth inning to bring Taney to within one.
But Taney once again stranded too many runners on base, forgoing opportunities to recapture the game’s momentum. In the third, with the bases loaded and one out, back-to-back strikeouts by Cummings and Joe Richardson held Chicago’s lead intact -- and seemed to take air out of Taney’s tires.
In the field
The Dragons were uncharacteristically shaky in the field early, and Chicago was able to capitalize. By the time the third inning kicked off, Chicago had scored four on two Taney errors. In total, the Dragons committed three errors.
Of course, they weren’t entirely without some strong defensive performances. A first-inning double play resulted in Chicago’s runners being called out at home and first, thanks to some quick thinking by Bandura.
That’s all, folks. The Dragons will pack up and head home, their Little League World Series journey now in the books.