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This time, home run goes against Harlem

©Associated Press
August 23, 2002

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- An intentional walk had taken the bat out of the hands of Worcester's power hitter. Along came Ryan Griffin.

His three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth gave Worcester, Mass., a 5-2 victory over Harlem, N.Y., on Thursday in a U.S. semifinal at the Little League World Series.

"I couldn't believe it was going -- I couldn't believe the game ended like that," Griffin said. "I was just trying to hit it into a gap in left or rightfield."

Gordie Lockbaum walked to lead off the inning and Frank Flynn, who had Worcester's only previous home run, was intentionally walked. After an out, Griffin battled through an eight-pitch at-bat and sent the ball sailing over the rightfield wall.

Harlem rightfielder Fernando Frias threw his hat near the fence in obvious disappointment, and then came Worcester's celebration at home plate.

"Ryan, the last couple games, has been putting it into the dirt," Worcester manager Fran Granger said. "We worked on that and worked on it. Tonight, it paid off."

Worcester will play Louisville, Ky., in Saturday's U.S. championship game.

Harlem, which took a lot of criticism over showboating in earlier games, was swinging for the fences in the top of the sixth, but Jeremy Lopez grounded out and Alibay Barkley and Javier Lopez were struck out by Keith Landers.

"That has been our nemesis, if you will, the off-speed pitch -- and it reared its head again," Harlem manager Morris McWilliams said.

Harlem took a 2-0 lead in the third on RBI singles by Jorge Lopez and Fernando Frias. Harlem had the bases loaded with two outs, but Spencer White flied out to deep left to end the inning.

Worcester tied it in the bottom of the inning on a sacrifice fly by Flynn and a passed ball.

Harlem loaded the bases again in the fourth, and then had runners at first and third in the fifth, but failed to score both times.

The Harlem team was cleared to play in the World Series after providing documents showing that its players met residency requirements.

The game was delayed briefly in the second when Harlem's Ralph Rodriguez was stung by a bee in leftfield. He returned to finish the inning.

NETHERLANDS ANTILLES 3, VENEZUELA 0: Dennis Neuman threw a one-hitter for Netherlands Antilles (3-1). Neuman (2-0) struck out nine, including the side in the top of the sixth to end the game.

The team scored two runs in the bottom of the first on bases-loaded walks.

Saturday's international championship will feature Netherlands Antilles against Sendai, Japan.

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