SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Make room, David Ortiz. There’s a mini “Big Papi” swinging a big bat for Nashville, Tenn., at the Little League World Series.
With the bases loaded and fans chanting “Big Papi! Big Papi!” Trae McLemore hit a 1-1 pitch over the fence in center to cap Nashville’s 10-2 victory over Corpus Christi, Texas, in an elimination game Saturday. McLemore, who was nicknamed in honor of Ortiz by his parents, finished with two hits and drove in six runs.
And he had his mother, Brenda Gonzalez, in tears as he rounded the bases in the top of the sixth.
“When I hit that grand slam, it was just energy running through my body,” said the 5-foot-11, 209-pound player. “It’s been one of my dreams to come and play in this tournament. Another one was to hit a home run. After that, I looked at my mom, and she was crying.”
Pausing, before breaking into a smile, McLemore added: “And I was like, ‘Oh, that’s awesome.’”
Ben Pickman struck out 10 and allowed three hits over five innings for Nashville (1-1), which stayed in contention in the double-elimination tournament. The Southeast champion opened with a 3-2 loss to Westport, Conn., on Thursday.
The one scare for Nashville came in the sixth inning when infielder Knox Preston fell awkwardly and hit his head while stumbling awkwardly into first base on a ground out. Preston was examined on the field, and required assistance to get to his dugout.
Nashville manager Chris Mercado said Preston was being tested for a possible concussion.
It was two-and-done for Corpus Christi (0-2), which failed to get its offense on track.
The Southwest champion will conclude the tournament playing Perth, Australia (0-2), in a consolation game Monday. Perth was eliminated following a 4-0 loss to San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, earlier in the day. Canada (1-1) stayed alive by hanging on to a 4-3 win over the Czech Republic (0-2).
The one bright moment for Corpus Christi was how Jared Cruz responded after giving up the home run to McLemore. Cruz hit a one-out solo homer to center in the bottom of the sixth to round out the scoring. And it came off McLemore, who relieved Pickman.
“It just shows that these guys didn’t give up,” Corpus Christi manager Randy Ramirez said. “That was a good way to show it, more so for Cruz, because he came back and hit if further.”
The game began as a pitching duel. Both Pickman and Corpus Christi starter Jesus Ortiz did not give up a through three innings.
That changed when Pickman fouled off three consecutive pitches before hitting a single down the first base line. Christopher McElvain followed with a double to right, and McLemore drove both home with a one-out single up the middle to key a three-run inning.
Mercado credited Pickman’s single for getting his offense going.
Once we started hitting the ball, I feel like the other guys feel it, and feel more positive,” Mercado said. “I was trying to get them fired up, get them going. And when they did, it was fun.”
Nashville scored three more in the fifth, and McLemore’s home run in the sixth rounded out the scoring.
He hit the 46th grand slam in series history, and first since Yoshiki Suzuki hit one on Aug. 18, 2011, for Hamamatsu City, Japan. It was the first grand slam by an American player since Andy Rios hit one in 2009 for Chula Vista, Calif.
“I call him ‘Pops.’ He’s just the big daddy,” Pickman said. “Everybody loves him. He’s out front, encouraging, loud. He helps fire up the team.”
PUERTO RICO 4, AUSTRALIA 0
Pitcher Tommylee Sierra shut out Australia for 5 2-3 innings in keeping San Lorenzo in contention in the international bracket of the tournament.
Sierra fell one out short of a complete game because he reached the Little League limit of 88 pitches per game when he recorded his 10thstrikeout of the game in the top of the sixth inning.
Leonardo Lizardi got the final out for Puerto Rico, which scored three times in the fourth inning to break a scoreless tie.
Australia, which was making its first LLWS appearance, was eliminated from title contention. Maverick Hamilton pitched a five-inning complete game for Australia and gave up seven hits.
CANADA 4, CZECH REPUBLIC 3
Angus Adams homered to help Ottawa beat Brno 4-3 in an elimination game. Adams connected in the first inning, and Daniel Stoudek tied it with a home run in the third.
The Canadians regained the lead with a three-run third.
The Czech Republic elected to walk Adams to load the bases with one out in the third, and an error gave Canada a 2-1 advantage. David Legault was then called out trying to score on a wild pitch, but the call was overturned on replay. Two pitches later, Adams attempted a delayed steal of home. Adams also was called out, but that play was overturned by replay as well, giving Canada a 4-1 lead.
Legault earned the save by getting a groundout to end the game with runners on first and second.