Sports

Ohio, Michigan reach LLWS championship game

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Cameron Thorning hit a two-run homer and struck out seven over 3 1/3 innings as Michigan defeated Hawaii 2-1 in a semifinal Saturday at the Little League World Series.

Michigan’s win set up a championship game Sunday against Ohio, 5-2 winners over South Dakota earlier in the day. It will be the first-ever meeting between teams from the same region in the title game.

“Two good teams coming out of the Great Lakes, it’s such an awesome thing to be able to say,” said manager Rick Thorning, Cameron’s dad. “It shows we are a powerhouse this year.

“The support that’s going to be there for us, whether we win or lose this game, is going to be out of this world. It’s going to be something that touches us for our lifetimes.”

Both Taylor North Little League, from Taylor, Michigan, and West Side Little League from Hamilton, Ohio, advanced out of the Great Lakes as this year’s tournament awarded LLWS bids to two teams per region because COVID-19 travel restrictions meant international clubs couldn’t participate.

Michigan’s squad beat Ohio 9-1 when they last met at the Great Lakes region championship.

It is the first time that a team from Ohio has reached the championship game. A team from Michigan last won the Little League World Series in 1959.

In the first semifinal, Ohio jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the second inning against Sioux Falls starter Maddux Munson. With runners on first and second and one out, Cooper Oden hit a single that right fielder Gunner Alfson bobbled, allowing a run to score.

Krew Brown loaded the bases with a bunt single, setting up a bases-clearing single from Levi Smith. The four runs in the inning were the first given up by South Dakota in the whole tournament.

“That first inning was pretty nerve-racking because this is probably the biggest game I have pitched in in my life and probably will ever pitch,” said Oden, who struck out six and allowed two runs over five innings. “Every 12-year-old that plays baseball, this is basically their dream.”

Trailing 5-1, South Dakota rallied for three straight singles off Oden in the sixth inning to score a run. South Dakota then loaded the bases off reliever Kaleb Harden and brought the winning run to the plate with nobody out. But Harden got three outs, the last on a force at third, to send Ohio into the title game.

“That kid today, Oden, threw a great game. He was pretty dialed in on his locations,” South Dakota manager Mike Gorsett said. “His fastball is not overpowering but when you throw so many off-speed pitches and then throw that fastball, it really ties guys up.”

In the second game, Thorning homered over the right-field wall in the top of the first inning, racing around the bases to meet his teammates at the plate. He followed that up by striking out the side in the bottom half.

“That’s obviously one of the greatest moments of my life because it’s in the Little League World Series, so it means a lot more,” Thorning said.

The team from Honolulu Little League got to Thorning in the bottom of the third when Kaikea Patoc-Young singled to right to drive in a run. But reliever Jakob Furkas kept Hawaii hitless the rest of the way.

He sealed the deal by striking out Eli Iopa and bounced his way off the mound toward the third-base line to celebrate with his teammates.

The loss ended Hawaii’s bid for a second LLWS title since 2018. Prior to the game, Honolulu received the Jack Losch Little League Baseball World Series Team Sportsmanship Award.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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