By Nina Zimmerman
TAYLOR, Mich. — Representing Australia in our first Junior League World Series, the team from Cronulla began the tournament against Asia-Pacific Region representative Chinese Taipei. Australia fell to the three-time reigning champions by a close final score of 5-1.
‘’[The team] came in relaxed, came in and really played. It just didn’t fall for us,” Head Coach Glen Humphry said. “We didn’t have any errors and made some great plays that kept us in it. The boys did extremely well. We haven’t had much game time at all since our tournaments [in Australia].”
Blake Cavill, one of five players on the roster who played in the Little League World Series last year, started the game for Australia and allowed three runs on two hits in 2.2 strong innings of work, striking out one batter and walking three.
Chinese Taipei struck first in the bottom of the second frame, taking a 1-0 lead. Huang Chao Wei led off the inning with a double to right field and stole third base, later scoring on Chang Yu Chun’s groundout to first base. The home team tacked on a pair of runs in the next inning on a two-out single off the bat of Lee Chen Hsun.
Australia answered in the top of the fourth frame, getting one run on the board and cutting Chinese Taipei’s lead to two runs. Cavill led off the inning with a walk and, one out later, advanced to third base on Jake Burns’ ground-ball single to shortstop. Next batter Bailey Curtis grounded out to first base, allowing Cavill to score Australia’s first run of the tournament.
In relief of Cavill, Joshua Pearl tossed 3.1 innings, allowing two runs on three hits and striking out three. Both Pearl and Cavill impressed on the mound, with Pearl throwing first-pitch strikes to nine of the 14 batters he faced and Cavill doing the same for seven of his 13.
However, the home side added two more runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to increase the lead to 5-1. Australia had two runners on with two outs in the final inning, but new Chinese Taipei pitcher Huang induced a flyout to end the ballgame.
The game’s historical significance, as Australia’s first JLWS game and part of the first year in which Australia will send teams to the Senior, Junior, and Little League World Series, wasn’t lost on the team according to Humphry.
“The more kids and coaches we can get overseas, the better,” he said. “Unless you experience the rest of the world, you don’t know how hard you have to push.”
Australia’s next game of the double-elimination tournament is scheduled for Tuesday, 16 August at 4:00pm local time, which is 17 August at 6:00am AEST. The team will face off against Canada, Panama, or Mexico, depending on the results of the next two days.
Humphry said the team will also have the opportunity go to Detroit to see an MLB game between the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City, thanks in part to tickets donated by Aussie Royals pitcher Peter Moylan.
For the full JLWS tournament schedule, click here.