SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Fans wondering whether the Rolando Paulino team from the Bronx, N.Y., was a one-man team got their answer Monday when the New Yorkers got a three-hit effort from pitcher Luilly Vinas in a 7-4 victory over Davenport (Iowa) East in pool play at the Little League World Series.
Tommy Guzman hit a two-run double and Rolando Torres hit a two-run homer in a big fourth inning for the Bronx, and Vinas struck out all three Iowa batters in the sixth to preserve the win.
"I don't think there's a team out there that's tougher than us, because we do our best and we have good pitching," Guzman said, bringing a cringe from manager Alberto Gonzalez.
Some had questioned whether the Bronx could win without Danny Almonte on the mound. Almonte threw a perfect game in the team's opener against Florida.
Guzman's double, a line drive to left-centerfield, brought home Santo Sierra and Johnelvis Ortiz, making it 5-2. The next batter was Torres, who hit a high-arcing shot over the leftfield wall, scoring Guzman and making it 7-2.
"He threw it right down the inside, and I just hit it," Torres said.
The outburst came as a surprise to Davenport East manager Matt Kolar, who previously had seen the Bronx as more of a defensive team. The Bronx had just two hits in its first series win and two hits in the Mid-Atlantic Region championship game.
"They hit the ball better than I thought, because they hadn't hit it before," Kolar said.
Bronx (2-0) tied the game 2-2 in the fourth when Carlos Garcia came home on a fielder's choice and scored on a catcher's error. Garcia slid into home, and Dustin Nickels dropped the ball. Sierra reached base on the hit, and Luilly Vinas advanced to third.
Davenport East pitcher Willie Argo walked Ortiz to load the bases, and all three runners advance on a passed ball, scoring Vinas and giving Bronx a 3-2 lead.
Another run, Danny Almonte's sliding score on a double steal, was called back because the runner at first left base early.
Davenport East (0-2) scored two runs in the fifth on a Shane White single and a fielding error, making it 7-4, but White was stranded when Chris Kolar grounded to the second baseman.
Vinas, who was perfect through three innings, struck out all three Iowa batters in the sixth to secure the win.
"We didn't hit the ball as well as I'd hoped we would. That guy was pretty much just throwing fastballs, and we were a little late," Kolar said. "I was a little disappointed that we didn't get around on him better."
Davenport East took a 2-1 lead in the fourth when Argo's home run bounced off the stone case that houses the bust of Howard J. Lamade, the former vice president of Grit Publishing and former Little League board member for whom the stadium is named. The run also brought home Shane White, who reached first on a walk and advanced on a passed ball.
It was the first time in the series that the Bronx had trailed, but Gonzalez said his players weren't concerned.
"We knew we had a good pitcher on the mound, and we knew if we kept the ball low our defense would take care of us," Gonzalez said.
Bronx took a 1-0 lead in the first when Guzman came home on a wild pitch. Bronx had runners on second and third with just one out when Hector Rodriguez popped up to the pitcher for the second out. The wild pitch scored Guzman and advanced Torres to third, but Garcia grounded to the pitcher for the final out.
Bronx also stranded runners in the second and third innings.
The game originally was scheduled for Sunday night, but was postponed because of rain.