Dancing with Dugout comes easy
BY RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector
Sunday, August 20, 2017
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — This was no regular middle school dance.
There were no girls, but instead 13 Greenville North State boys and 14 from Sioux Falls, S.D., trying to keep up with a big fuzzy mascot named Dugout front and center at Lamade Stadium with nearly 10,000 people watching.
This is one of the few things that can hold up a Little League World Series game. Because of the all-out dance party Friday night, North State’s opening game of the event, which is aimed at a mix of fun of baseball, started at 8:15 p.m. instead of the scheduled 8 o’clock time.
“I want to go out there and play, but before the game it’s about having fun and that’s what this tournament is all about,” said North State’s Drew Fields, who seized the momentum when he did “the worm” with Dugout.
With some urging from the mascot, the head coaches for both teams joined the dancing a few minutes later.
It’s hard to predict what might happen when this many 11-,12- and 13-year-old kids from all over the world come together for a sporting event.
The transition of the joy from Friday’s game, which saw pitchers Chase Anderson, Matthew Matthijs and Carson Hardee make history with a combined perfect game, to a relaxed day off Saturday began with North State checking out the minor league stadium in Williamsport where the first-ever Major League Baseball Little League Showcase game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals will be held Sunday night. Coach Brian Fields then gave the players the afternoon off to spend time with their families.
Greenville is representing the U.S. Southeast region and faces the West representative from Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif., in the second round Sunday at 2 p.m. North State will come into the contest after producing 10 strikeouts with no walks Friday against Sioux Falls.
“Little League is a funny game, but when you look at it and you have no walks, you are going to win a lot of games,” coach Brian Fields said.
Matthijs and Anderson were each pulled Friday against South Dakota after reaching the 35-pitch limit that is accompanied by a mandated one day’s rest, so North State will have its full pitching staff available against the California squad that beat Walla Walla, Wash., 9-0 in its first game.
Greenville’s opening win was defined by dominant pitching and it featured a neat showdown of 6-footers during the fourth inning. South Dakota’s Marcus Phillips took a huge swing at a Matthijs fastball that was 76 miles per hour and after missing, Phillips’ momentum kept going and he spun to the ground.
The display of both kids trying to overpower the other was followed by ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ from some of the crowd of 9,923.
Matthijs struck out Phillips two pitches later to complete his three-strikeout inning. It was part of a big momentum boost that had the Greenville fans proud and on their feet.
“It’s great and it’s crazy to see how many people drove up here to support us and watch us play,” Matthijs said.
Contact Ronnie Woodward at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.