WILLIAMSPORT, Pennsylvania (KTRK) — Needville Little League has become this year’s dangerous team on the United States’ side of the tournament.
The crew from Fort Bend County has outgunned and outran its first three opponents, balancing aggressive but instinctive baserunning with shut-down pitching, most notably from ace DJ Jablonski, who has 15 strikeouts to his name in two Little League World Series games.
Now 3-0 and with a U.S. championship game berth on the line, Needville faces its last remaining unbeaten opponent of the tourney, Northeast Seattle Little League of Washington, on Wednesday afternoon.
ABC13’s sister network ESPN will carry the game at 2 p.m.
Eyewitness News reporter Jeff Ehling is following the team’s moves in Williamsport. He’ll have live updates leading up to the game on Wednesday.
What are the scenarios at play for Needville? Win and they’re in the U.S. title matchup as a 4-0 team in the World Series. Lose and they’ll head into the elimination bracket with one more defeat ending their Williamsport run.
But if they win their lone contest in the elimination bracket, they’ll earn the U.S. title game berth.
Meanwhile, the talk of this year’s LLWS is the juggernaut Chinese Taipei club, which has back-to-back no-hit games on the international side of the tournament. If things shake out Texas’ way, Needville may face the challenge from its overseas counterparts in the Little League World Series championship game.
Squaring up Northeast Seattle
The Northwest Region champions are similarly unbeaten dating back to the regional tournament, though almost all of their wins to this point have been lopsided.
Northeast Seattle owns regional victories with scores of 12-0, 9-0, and 12-1.
It got scarier when the team began LLWS play, winning in a 10-0 contest that was stopped in the fourth inning due to the 10-run rule.
The team earned its way to a matchup with Texas after winning a more competitive 6-2 game against Nolensville, Tennessee.
How did Needville get here?
After running the table en route to their Southwest Region championship, the Texas Little Leaguers defeated Media, Pennsylvania, 2-1, behind DJ Jablonski’s 10-strikeout gem.
They advanced to take on Fargo, North Dakota, next in the Midwest Region champion’s first-ever LLWS game. Needville prevailed, 6-2, despite just putting up two hits. Much of the scoring came down to heads-up baserunning after several pitching errors from the Fargo side.
Texas then faced El Segundo, California, in a close but dominant matchup by Needville, which used more of the aggressive running on the base paths to convert two early runs out of back-to-back-to-back hits in the first inning.
Jablonski shook off a home run by the West champs early on before holding off any further scoring by the Californians. The highlight of the match for Needville came from infielder Dalyn Martin, who made a diving catch from a shallow blooper closer to the third-base line during the second inning.
Jablonski also hit a solo home run en route to the 3-1 win.