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August 19, 2009 > U.S. West wins World Series Opener

U.S. West wins World Series Opener

By Giovanni Albanese Jr.
Photos By Submitted by Jeff Earickson

Playing in the Senior Little League World Series is bound to put butterflies in every player's stomach. Well, everyone except Billy Nevin.

"Baseball is baseball, so it doesn't really matter where it's at," said Nevin. "There's no real difference."

And Nevin did, in fact, pitch as if it didn't really matter that he was pitching to a Philippines team in the opening game for Niles Centerville Senior Little League in the 2009 Senior Little League World Series.

On the biggest stage, Nevin threw six shutout innings in relief for Jack Veronin, allowing just three hits while striking out two and walking none in the 4-1 win Sunday afternoon at Shawn T. Mansfield Stadium in Bangor, Maine.

"I know Billy said it's just another game, but he was outstanding," said Niles-Centerville Manager Perry Romero. "He came in there ... and he threw strikes."

But for most of the game, Nevin was holding down the Philippines offense, keeping his club within catching distance of their opponent until the bats, which outscored opponents 62-20 in their undefeated run through the Western Regional Tournament (6-0), came through late.

Much of the praise on Nevin's part was to his defensive unit, including Tri-City Voice's August Male Athlete of the Month.

"It's just good defense, mostly," said Nevin. "I didn't get too many strikeouts. Most of it was (Wik) playing good 'D'."

"He was awesome on defense," said Coach Romero of Wik. "And the rest of the team was, too; when you play error-free ball, I think you're going to have a chance at the end."

And it was Wik who came through at the play in a big way. He began the game 0-3, frustrated by the pitching of the Philippines, as he came up to bat in the sixth with the bases loaded and no outs.

Wik hit a scorcher up the middle off eventual losing pitcher Tsuyoshi Horibata that was stabbed by a diving Mark Ong at shortstop. However, on his flip to Jose San Juan at second, the ball got away, allowing Pierce Romero and Sean O'Hare scamper home for the 2-1 lead that Niles-Centerville would not give up.

Following another one-two-three inning by Nevin in the seventh, the Niles bats gave him a little insurance before he came to finish the job in the final inning.

Wik stepped up with both Romero and O'Hare on base in front of him and, just like the previous inning, he knocked them both home, this time on a gapper to left center for a double off Ong, who came in for Horibata after giving up the lead., making it 4-1 Niles-Centerville.

"I go up to the plate every at bat looking to be aggressive," said Wik. Pitchers try to get ahead early ... so I just look to be aggressive and drive the first pitch."

Philippines scored their only run of the ball game in their first at bat of starting pitcher Veronin. After the winner of the Asia-Pacific tournament loaded the bases on a single sandwiched between two walks, Ong drove in San Juan with a sac fly to right.

Charles Catangui started and pitched four shutout innings for the Philippines before being pulled by Manager Luis Habana for Horibata.

"It's mainly because of the schedule," said Habana on his decision to take out Catangui. "We want to save him for the game after tomorrow.

"What really killed us today was our errors," Habana continued. Philippines had three errors on the day, and one that was ruled a base hit on a bobbled ball by catcher Adriane Bernardo on a bunt by Veronin in the sixth.

Niles improved to 1-0 in the Senior Little League World Series in Pool A; Philippines dropped to 0-1 with the loss. Each team for both Pool A and Pool B will play four games. The top two teams at the end of pool play advance to the semifinals on Friday afternoon.

"Today we got tested," said Niles-Centerville Manager Perry Romero. "But these kids are really resilient ... they're going to move on and play hard."

Next up for U.S. West in their quest for a World Series title is an 8 p.m. local game vs. Greenville, S.C. on Monday night, when Coach Romero looks to throw out southpaw Matt Knight to start, or possible bring back Veronin. Philippines will look to bounce back tomorrow at 5 p.m. when they take on host team, Bangor, Maine.

"Today was very big," said Romero of the importance of winning the opening game. "We have our hands full tomorrow with South Carolina ... and we're going to come out and do the best we can and hopefully we'll play a good game and give ourselves a chance to win the game,"

"We need to win all our remaining games if we want to have any chance at the semis," said Habana of his club. "I think we'll come back tomorrow."

Niles-Centerville, in addition to playing South Carolina on Monday night, played Canada on Tuesday night. Both games were not available at press. For complete game coverage, schedule and results of Niles-Centerville's run for a World Series title, log onto www.tricityvoice.com/sports.

Niles-Centerville reached the Senior Little League World Series in Bangor, Maine, by virtue of sweeping through the Western Regional Tournament in Ontario, Calif., on Tuesday, August 11 (2-1 vs. Corona, Calif.). In the SLLWS, Niles now represents U.S. West. In the 10-team tournament featuring U.S. East (Vineland, N.J.), U.S. Southeast (Greenville, S.C.), U.S. Central (Madison, Wisc.), U.S. Southwest (Houston, Texas), Canada (Cornwall, Ontario), Latin America (San Nicolas, Aruba), EMEA (Friuli Venezia Giulia, Italy), Asia-Pacific (Makati City, Philippines) and host team, Maine District 3 (Bangor, Maine).

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