Friday’s opening game in the 2013 Little League World Series between West Region region champion Eastlake and Great Lakes region champion Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores (Mich.) predictably proved to be a pitchers duel.
The starter for Grosse Point Woods-Shores was 6-foot-3, 210-pounder Chad Lorkowski — a monster of a man for just 12 years old.
On the mound for Eastlake was ace hurler Grant Holman, who was listed on the scoresheet at 6-4, 166 pounds — a string bean of a 13-year-old kid.
Lorkowski gave up a lead-off hit to Eastlake’s Micah Pietila-Wiggs but proved unbeatable thereafter while recording 12 strikeouts before reaching the 85-pitch count through six innings.
Holman outlasted Lorkowski on the mound, and Eastlake outlasted the Michigan state champions, 3-0, behind a no-hitter by Holman.
How much better can it get for this high achieving Eastlake team?
"Great game!" Eastlake manager Rick Tibbett underscored in regard to his team's unbelievable LLWS debut.
Few words could adequately capture the moment.
Holman struck out 13 batters and managed to finish the game within the boundaries of the 85-pitch count.
He walked one batter and benefitted from two stellar defensive plays by second baseman Micah Pietila-Wiggs (in the fourth inning) and third baseman Ricky Tibbett (in the seventh inning) to secure his no-hit gem.
Holman’s no-no made Little League history. Since the pitch-count rule was implemented in 2007, no pitcher had ever thrown an extra-inning no-hitter in the LLWS. Holman was also the first California pitcher to throw a no-hitter in the LLWS since 1993.
"We played great defense and had great pitching," Tibbett said. "It turned into a battle of the pitch count for them and us. We won the battle. They had to put in another pitcher and we started hitting like we usually do."
Catcher Patrick Archer delivered the big hit off Lorkowski's replacement to drive in two runs in the top of the seventh inning.
While obviously enthused about pitching a no-hitter in his first-ever Little League World Series game, Holman was more focused on his team getting the win.
"It feels just great, (especially) knowing that we're still in the winners bracket," Holman told an ESPN reporter after the game.
The nationally televised game proved to be the perfect showcase for the under-rated West region champions.
Aside from the base hit by Pietila-Wiggs, Lorkowski had managed to silence the normally heavy-hitting Eastlake squad. But Grosse Pointe Woods-Shores could not solve Holman to give Lorkowski the winning edge.
Lorkowski threw 17 first-pitch strikes against Eastlake batters. But it was his inability to finish the game that proved costly for the Michigan State champs.
Lorkowski reached the 85-pitch count on the last batter he faced in the bottom of the sixth inning. His replacement, Antonio Moceri, promptly got into trouble by allowing consecutive hits by Giancarlo Cortez and Rennard Williams to open Eastlake's half of the seventh inning.
Morcei struck out Charly Peterson for one out but Kevin Bateman was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
That brought Archer to the plate and Moceri appeared to be winning that key one-on-one match-up until Archer drove a ball up the middle to score two runs.
Pietila-Wiggs then followed with another base hit to bring home another run.
Archer had gone hitless (0-for-10) in Eastlake's six games at the West Region championship tournament. But he delivered when it counted most.
"I knew I needed to hit the ball and put it into play," Archer told an ESPN reporter after the game.
The Eastlake catcher said he didn't like the first two offerings thrown by Moceri but did like the fastball that eventually came his way.
Holman said his teammates kept their silence in regard to the unfolding no-hitter but supported him with their defensive play.
That was the silent encouragement he needed to complete the task, he said.
In a post-game interview on ESPN, Archer said Holman had his fastball under control the whole game, put pitches over the plate and hit all the edges.
Eastlake (19-1) needed the pitching boost as the California District 42 champions were unable to break down Lorkowski.
"He (Lorkowski) shut us down like no other pitcher," Archer told ESPN.
Eastlake advances to a second-round winners bracket game on Sunday (2 p.m. PDT start) against Mid-Atlantic champion Newark National (Delaware), which topped Midwest champion Urbandale (Iowa), 6-3, in Friday's other opening round game.
The winner of Sunday's game advances to Wednesday's winners bracket semifinal.
The Michigan state champs will now face Urbandale in a consolation bracket game on Saturday. The loser of that game plays an Internationl bracket opponent in a special consolation match on Tuesday.