A blown call appears to have helped the Bronx-based Rolando Paulino team through its semifinal game at the Little League World Series.
Danny Almonte, the pitcher who threw a perfect game earlier in the tournament, repeated his remarkable feat of 16 strikeouts. But most people were talking about the controversial no-call that helped the only run score in Bronx team's 1-0 victory over the team from Oceanside, Calif.
Pinch hitting for Reynaldo Guava with two outs, Santo Sierra singled to left field in the fifth inning. Guava came back in as a pinch runner and advanced to third base when Kenny Espinal hit a line drive to right field.
Replays on television clearly showed Guava missed second base. After talking with his manager, Oceanside pitcher Thomas Eukovich threw to second, but the second-base umpire called Guava safe.
Eukovich then intentionally walked Guzman to load the bases, and Guava went home on Rolando Torres' bunt.
Guava said after the game that he thought he stepped on second base, but even his manager, Alberto Gonzalez, said the Little Leaguer probably should have been called out.
"From my view, I didn't see it, but I didn't think he touched it," Gonzalez said.
"I did not see the runner miss the bag," said Oceanside manager Daryl Wasano. "I went out to settle down my pitcher and heard all the parents yelling. The call is a judgment call, and the umpire clearly called him safe, so you move on. I took a chance and loaded the bases, and who would have thought what amounted to a swinging bunt would determine the outcome."
After the game, second-base umpire Bill Stains said, "I'd rather not talk to the media. I felt, in my judgment, he got the base."
Following up nicely from his perfect game in the Bronx opener, Almonte hurled a one-hit shutout, throwing pitches clocked at 77 mph and surrendering no walks. Only two Oceanside outs didn't come from strikeouts.
The Oceanside team wasn't used to such pitching dominance – they came into the game batting .333 as a team, with five players hitting .500 or better.
"He really brings it," Wasano said. "We swung at some high pitches, then he would come back with off-speed inside."
New York will meet Apopka, Fla. (3-1), Saturday in the U.S. championship. Apopka, which defeated Brownsburg, Ind., in Wednesday's semifinal, was Almonte's victim in his perfect game.
Fortunately for Apopka, they won't have to face their nemesis again. Little League rules prevent a pitcher from pitching two games in a row.
Johnny Jimenez spoiled Almonte's bid for consecutive perfect games in the bottom of the first with a grounder to right field.
"I just let it hang," Almonte said of the pitch.
Oceanside almost matched Almonte’s pitching performance with their defensive play. Eukovich walked Guzman to start the game, then started a 1-4-3 double play — the first of two on the day — that put Guzman and Torres out. Josh Harris robbed Almonte of a hit in the first inning with a leaping catch, and Tyler Varnals' grab in left field kept Guzman from getting on base in the fourth.
Almonte had the first hit for the Bronx, a fourth-inning single into center field. He reached second on a wild pitch, but Luilly Vinas grounded out to the second baseman to end the inning.
The Bronx won its pool by beating Florida, Iowa and Washington. Oceanside beat Rhode Island and Louisiana before losing to Indiana.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.