WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — The 2021 Little League World Series will be unique for many reasons.
One is that two teams from each region qualify. This means friendships sparked at the regional level have a chance to carry over. That appeared to be the case for the West as Torrance Little League cheered on Honolulu in its tournament-opening win.
Not to be outdone by their friends, Torrance produced in its opener to defeat New England, 10-2, as a group of Hawaii players watched from the hill surrounding Lamade Stadium.
Torrance will advance to face Ohio, which defeated Tennessee, 1-0, in eight innings. The game is scheduled for Sunday at 6 a.m. PT at Volunteer Stadium.
“I’d like to consider them friends,” Torrance assistant coach Javier Chavez said of the Hawaii team. “We are actually bunking right next to them. They are a great group of kids. Their coach is spot on. It’s good to actually be on this journey with them as well.”
Elias Emerson got Torrance rolling with a single past the second baseman for the opening run of Thursday night’s game.
Emerson was immediately greeted by cheers from the Torrance faithful as he pointed to the dugout and his teammates. Gibson Turner drove in the second run and loaded the bases in the process as Grant Hays followed. Hays was forced into an inning-ending ground ball, but not before Torrance scored two more runs on passed balls to take a 4-0 lead.
“We were itching to get out and play,” Chavez said. “It was a good feeling to actually start the game ahead rather than having to fight back. Great job once again by Gibson Turner.”
Turner started the game for Torrance, going 3-1/3 innings with five strikeouts. He scattered two hits and gave up a run after a walk and two throwing errors.
Ryson Michaud benefited from the throwing errors to get New Hampshire on the board. He jumped into the air and fist-pumped after scoring the run. A flyout to Skylar Vinson ended the inning and kept the Torrance lead intact.
New Hampshire scored its second run when Tristan Lucier lifted the first pitch of the sixth inning over the centerfield fence. It was a quick boost, but Torrance completed the opening day win with two groundouts and a lineout.
“Tristan can do that at any time,” New Hampshire manager Tm DeVall said. “He just missed one during his previous at-bat. He’s been doing that for us all season long. That was a shot.”
Torrance built a cushion that easily withstood Lucier’s home run as it added runs in fifth when Emerson came up with the bases loaded with one out.
With New England fans hoping Emerson wouldn’t break the game open, a walk gave Torrance a 5-1 lead. Emerson worked an outstanding at-bat, fouling balls off, but not getting too greedy to draw the walk. A hit batter followed before a runner scored on a passed ball to give Torrance an 8-1 advantage.
“We had three great innings where we were able to jump on the other team,” Chavez said. “The kids responded really well to everything that was thrown at them. This is a good start for the boys.”
It wasn’t all about the offense for Torrance as Dominic Golia stopped a hard-hit ball in the gap with a backhanded play. He quickly gathered himself and threw a perfect ball across the diamond for the final out of the fifth.
The West is certainly representative of everything Little League has attempted to build over the last several years. Both teams are friendly and pulling for each other, but still are extremely competitive.
Despite all the friendships, there still is a little rivalry brewing underneath it all. If each club continues to win, they could face each other, which is something the Torrance kids seem to want.
“I definitely want to play them again,” Turner said. “I hope we can play our best and stay healthy. We want to show them who’s the best.”
Torrance 10, New England 2
Torrance 040 042—10 8 2
NH 001 001—2 5 2
Gibson Turner, Dominic Golia (3), Kavier Navarro (6), and Andrew Nuruki. Mason DeVall, Tristian Lucier (5), Keith Townsend (5), and Tyler Chauvette.
WP: Turner. LP: DeVall.
Top Torrance hitters: Grant Hays 1-4, 2B; Andrew Nuruiki 2-2, 2 RBI. Top New England hitters: Tristan Lucier 1-3, HR, run, RBI.