Joshua Houston and his teammates from the west side of Chicago aren’t ready to go home just yet.
Pierce Jones and Trey Hondras homered, and Houston hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the fifth inning as Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West beat Cumberland, Rhode Island, 8-7 on Monday night in an elimination game at the Little League World Series.
“It means a lot because it’s been 31 years,” said Marquis Jackson, who had two hits and scored twice. “It shows anything is possible.”
The Jackie Robinson West team, representing the Great Lakes, is comprised of all African-American players and is making its first appearance in the World Series since 1983. It will play Pearland, Texas, on Tuesday night.
“I don’t think they really grasp what’s going on,” manager Darold Butler said. “It doesn’t matter who they’re playing. This team’s a special team.”
Jones led off the game with his fourth homer of the World Series, a solo shot to center field, to get Chicago rolling, his teammates embracing him when he crossed home plate.
Cumberland responded with two runs in the bottom of the first. CJ Davock singled to left and Addison Kopack walked. Tyler Provost followed with an RBI single to center and Kopack scored when the cutoff throw sailed past Houston at third.
Hondras hit a towering three-run homer to center in the second to stake Chicago to a three-run lead and Houston’s RBI single in the top of the third made it 6-2.
Undaunted, Cumberland laced six straight hits to spark a five-run rally in the bottom of the third to take a 7-6 lead. Kopack had a run-scoring single, Provost laced a two-run single to left, and Trey Thibeault lined a shot down the left-field line that just cleared the fence for a two-run homer.
Hondras tried to spark Chicago in the fourth, but he was thrown out at third trying to stretch his line drive that bounced off the left-center field wall. Chicago protested, but the call was upheld, although a replay showed the fielder missed the tag.
In the fifth, lefty-hitting Darion Radcliff’s hard RBI single to left tied it for Cumberland before Houston drove a line drive down the left-field line to bring in pinch-runner Lawrence Noble from second base with the decisive run.
It wasn’t the way Cumberland manager Dave Belisle wanted his season to end. Not after his impassioned speech had sparked that scintillating 8-7 comeback win over Nashville, Tennessee, on Saturday.
“We showed our character again. It has to end sometime,” Belisle said, fighting back tears at the end of his interview. “They gave me memories I’ll take home for a lifetime. The whole region of New England is loving us, not for our wins but for our effort. They gave me the summer of my life.”