Even after Peachtree City’s loss Saturday in the U.S. Championship to Hawaii, Patrick Gloriod was confident in his team.
The manager for the Georgia and the Southeast Region representative in the Little League World Series said that his team would play anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Peachtree City would get its shot at redemption on Sunday morning at Howard J. Lamade Stadium, but on the other side was a Japan team that was just as hungry for a win. In the tournament’s third-place consolation game, Japan used strong pitching throughout and outburst of offense in the second inning to top Peachtree City 8-2.
At the plate, Tai Peete reached first base twice and scored a run. Jansen Kenty drove in both of Peachtree City’s runs.
Despite the loss, Gloriod remained appreciative of his team. He was especially pleased with the way the players fought after facing a large deficit in the game’s early stages.
“We came out flat, I think. There was a let down from yesterday,” Gloriod said. “But I’m really proud of the way that they kind of picked themselves up about halfway through the game. I told them in the dugout, ‘Don’t go out this way. Let’s play hard and finish the way you guys know how to play baseball.’”
Much of Peachtree City’s top arms were ineligible to pitch in the game due to Little League’s rules on how many pitches a player throws, how many innings they pitch and how many days they’ve pitched. Gloriod called on Chase Fralick to start the game, who hadn’t pitched previously in Williamsport.
Fralick is typically saddled behind the plate as Peachtree City’s catcher. He started out well, striking out a pair of batters, but Japan strung together several hits off of him in the second inning.
An error allowed a Japan runner to get on base, and then Masato Igarashi cranked the second pitch he saw, putting it over the wall in centerfield to put Japan up 2-0. The ball soared at least 240 feet, landing in the bushes behind the stadium's warning track
What followed was an error, a fielder’s choice, a single, a double and another double. That series of events added five more runs for Japan in the inning.
Igarashi started on the mound for Japan in this game too and was nearly untouchable. In four innings of work, he kept Peachtree City off the scoreboard while striking out five batters.
Peachtree City was able to score off Japan’s reliever, Shinji Furusawa, in the fifth inning. With Willis Maginnis and Peete on base, Kenty doubled on a hard ground ball to right field, scoring both runners.
Kenty, a 5-foot-8 left-handed first basemen, led Peachtree City in RBIs at Williamsport, driving in five runs in 26 plate appearances. Kenty also struck out 21 batters over 11 innings pitched in the tournament. He may have been powered on Sunday by Mountain Dew. Gloriod said he caught Kenty drinking a can of the sugar-packed soda in his bunk on Saturday night.
“Jansen’s been unbelievable. He’s an exceptional player,” Gloriod said. “He’s the best 12-year-old athlete I’ve ever had the chance to be around. He’s got a great personality and is just a wonderful human being.”
Maginnis and Ben Traxler pitched in relief for Peachtree City, and Traxler struck out three batters and allowed one run in 2.2 innings of work. Traxler, a 5-foot-2 right-hander, finished the tournament with 13 strikeouts over 9.2 innings.
Peachtree City attempted to put together a rally in the sixth inning, getting two runners on-base with two outs, but Tyler Beck’s fly out to centerfield ended the game.
Even when they were trailing by six runs, the Peachtree City players and fans got excited over a play sure to be a candidate for Sportscenter’s Top 10. Playing third base in the fifth inning, Cayden Olvey quickly dove to his right to scoop up a hard-hit ground ball, then — while sitting in the dirt — threw to first just in time to get the Japan hitter out.
While the play was under review, players mobbed Olvey, laughing and re-enacting the play. It showed that while Peachtree City didn’t finish the tournament how the team would’ve liked, the players, the coaches and fans still enjoyed the ride.
“I was happy to get Cayden and Beck and (James Hooper) in the game. They’ve worked hard,” Gloriod said. “We’ve had so many tight games, I just haven’t had the opportunity to get them in… My son was a sub in 2015 in regionals, so I know what it means for those kids to get to see the field.”
After tipping their hats to the fans, the Peachtree City and Japan players returned to the field with plastic bags, scooping Williamsport dirt inside them, as forever keepsakes to remind them of their run to one of baseball's biggest stages.
For Gloriod, who works as a salesman, getting away from his career for a bit to spend time coaching and hanging out with youngsters was an absolute blast. For him, it’s the laughs he had at the Little League World Series that he’ll never forget.
“When you’re not working, you want to spend time with people who make you laugh,” Gloriod said. “Life is hard and these kids make me laugh all the time. I’ll spend as much time with them as I can moving forward because they’re really fun to be around.”