It was on all the faces of the Easley-based host team as the players and coaches watched Puerto Rico celebrate and hoist the trophy as the 2012 Big League World Series champions. It had been a valiant effort by a team many did not expect to even reach the semifinals. They had beaten a strong Indiana team and, on this night, had come the closest of anyone to beating a Puerto Rico squad that had dominated all other teams by a score of 50-3.
But in the end, when the SC District team made its last out with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, Puerto Rico had spoiled Cinderella’s run in a 7-3 victory Wednesday night at the JB “Red” Owens Recreation Complex in Easley.
“I’m dejected and disappointed,” said Easley Manager Gregg Powell who has led the host team to four championships in the 12 years the tournament has been in Easley —- the only host team to have won a World Series at any level of Little League Baseball. “But, I am proud of this team and all they have accomplished. This is a great group of kids and I look forward to next year.”
There were several “firsts” by Easley in the championship
• Easley scored as many runs (3) on Puerto Rico as they had given up in its previous five games.
• The two runs the host team scored in the first inning was the first time in the 2012 tournament that Puerto Rico had been behind in the entire series.
• Pitcher Tucker Burgess was the only pitcher in the Big League World Series this year to hold Puerto Rico scoreless and hitless in the first two innings, getting the first six batters out without allowing a baserunner.
• For the second night in a row, Easley had chased the other team’s ace out of the game by the third inning. Puerto Rico’s Joe Jimenez pitched a no-hitter in his last outing before the championship game. The District 1 team tagged Jimenez for three runs and he was taken out before the third inning ended.
“I did all I could do,” said Burgess, who held the Puerto Rico offense early. “Nobody really expected much out of us, and we had a great run.”
The District 1 team struck first. Tucker Lollis had a one-out single in the top of the first inning and later scored the first run of the game on a passed ball in which he slid just under the tag to give the host team a 1-0 lead. With two outs, Erven Roper doubled and Trey Hayes got to first after being hit by Jimenez. Stephen McKnight singled to score Roper. Hayes has thrown out at the plate trying to score another run, but Easley had a 2-0 lead.
After Burgess got the first three Puerto Rico batters out in first and second innings, Easley came back when Roper and Hayes walked and McKnight singled to load the bases. Jimenez was replaced by Edgardo Rivera with two outs and the bases loaded. Rivera walked Chase Day to give the District 1 team a 3-0 lead. No other team scored as many runs on Puerto Rico, who had not allowed a run in 26 and two-thirds innings at one point in the series.
But, the host team left the bases loaded in the third without scoring any more runs. And that would be the last run Easley would score.
Mikael Cintron led off the bottom of the third and Burgess then hit Rafael Oliveras to put two runners on. With one out, Alexis Cruze tied the game at 3-3 with a three run home run. Victor Caratini scored another run and Puerto Rico a 4-3 lead after three innings.
“It really broke our backs when they got the home run,” said Powell. “We got to them early but we had some breakdowns and then we left the bases loaded. We took it them, but we couldn’t finish them off. They are a very good team.”
Burgess came back after the home run to strike out all three batters in the fourth. Jonathan Morales scored in the fifth to give Puerto Rico a 5-3 lead. Puerto Rico scored two more in the sixth to take a 7-3 lead.