Utah Advances To 2022 Little League World Series For First Time In State History
SALT LAKE CITY – The Snow Canyon baseball team representing Utah has become the first team from Utah to qualify for the Little League World Series following their 7-3 win over Nevada in the Mountain Region Championship game.
— ESPN (@espn) August 12, 2022
Earlier in the week, Utah advanced to the Championship game when they beat Nevada with a walk-off RBI to win 5-4. With the loss, Nevada played Montana on Thursday where they prevailed 5-1 to book their place in the Championship game against Utah.
LITTLE LEAGUE WALK-OFF ⚡
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) August 10, 2022
Utah Advances To Little League World Series
Reggie Ence took the mound for Utah and pitched 5 innings where he allowed just 6 hits and had a strike percentage of .630, while only allowing one walk.
Utah took an early lead in the bottom of the first when Kolby “Chops” Lameroux, batting fifth in the lineup, hit a flyball that fell short of the Nevada right-fielder sending two teammates home to take an early two-nothing lead.
In the following inning, Nevada found the scoreboard when Jake Nakahara hit a ground ball down the third base line sending a runner home for an RBI single. Then, the following batter Zach Portnoff hit a grounder to tie the score. Fortunately, Utah got out of the inning tied at two-a-piece.
Nevada made a pitching change in the bottom of the third bringing Portnoff to the mound as Utah has two on base and no outs. Then, Lameroux made another play for Utah when he connected on a dinger that flew over the center fielder’s head and into the bushes for a three-run homer to gift Utah the 5-3 lead.
It was the first home run for Utah throughout the Mountain Region play. Lameroux was responsible for all five of Utah’s runs with his two at-bats.
Utah then blew the game open in the bottom of the fourth when lead-off hitter Cody Ruffel attempted to steal third base and was called out, which would have ended the inning. However, Utah challenged the call and it was overturned.
Then, on the following pitch, Brogan Coop looked to steal second and Ruffel stole home during the throw from home plate to second base. When the throw came back to home plate, Coop easily walked to second base. Utah held a 6-2 lead.
The next batter up, Ence, hit a ground ball and Coop was able to round third and score increasing the lead to 7-2.
Reggie Ence Caught Fire On The Mound
While Utah was finding its form with the bat, pitcher Ence was catching fire on the mound. Between the top of the second to the top of the fifth Ence retired 10 consecutive batters before Nevada lead-off hitter Ryland Gregorich hit a grounder to center field to make it to first base.
But Ence proceeded to struggle to find the strike zone and walked his first batter with two outs in the top of the fifth. Nevada got bat to ball and had bases loaded when Ence threw a wild pitch allowing a Nevada run.
Fortunately, Utah was able to get out of the inning only conceding one run.
At the top of the sixth, Utah made a pitching change bringing in Brex Whitney for Ence who had thrown 81 pitches and was approaching the pitch limit of 85.
Whitney game up a ground ball single before striking out the following batter with a breaking ball to record his first strikeout of the game.
However, another ground ball single was conceded and Nevada has base runners on first and second with just one out as Utah attempted to close out the game. Nakahara then stepped up to the plate and was struck out swinging at a ball that found the dirt.
But Utah prevailed to secure a birth at the Little League World Series when Nevada’s lead-off hitter hit a ground ball to Whitney who comfortably threw the ball to first for the final out of the game.
Utah has received support online from the likes of Donovan Mitchell, and the BYU Baseball team, among others.
Utah will next play on August 19 in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.