Sports

Pearland wins Little League World Series opener 8-3 over Pennsylvania

Pearland advances in the LLWS and plays its next game Monday.

Little League World Series Pennsylvania Texas Baseball
Pearland, Texas’ Jacob Zurek (6) scores behind Hollidaysburg, Pa.’s Braden Hatch, right, during the fifth inning of a baseball game at the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa., Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Strong pitching, hot bats, determination and grit propelled the Pearland Little Leaguers to an 8-3 victory in their opening game of the Little League World Series.

Playing in front of a crowd of full ballpark in a game televised on ESPN2, the Pearland Little League team remained poised through it all. Pearland represents the Southwest in the Little League World Series and advanced in the winners bracket to a game on Monday.

"Our coaches told us to worry about the field," Pearland player Kaiden Shelton said. "Don't worry about the stands."

"It was pretty cool," player Jacob Zurek said. "I always dreamed about playing in Williamsport and to have that many people come to our game was super cool. I'm kind of happy there was more Pennsylvania fans than Texas fans because it was an upset."

The team of all-stars found themselves down 0-2 after the first inning. Southwest came back to tie the game in the third inning. Pitcher Corey Kahn battled on the mound striking out seven batters before Shelton took over in the fourth with the game tied 2-2.

"My chest was beating really, really fast like 10,000 times per second," Shelton said about entering a tied game. "Once I started throwing strikes, I had a lot of confidence in myself to throw strikes."

From there the bats started coming alive. With one out in the fifth, Jacolby Mayberry singled a pitch near centerfield, then Cohen Hartman followed up with a single of his own. But it was Jacob Zurek's single that brought Mayberry home and gave Southwest the first lead of the game.

"We've only been down a couple of times this summer," manager Aaron Cummings said. "Sooner or later our bats are going to bust out and that's what happened in the fifth."

"All we did was pick each other up and our coaches kept picking us up," Shelton said. "We came back as a team and we almost became louder than the Pennsylvania crowd."

The team would never look back, winning by five runs.

"I'm really proud of the team. That was really a wild experience. To play in front of 19,000 people, none of our boys or their boys had ever played in anything like that," Cummings said. "I thought our boys did a great job just hanging in there, getting into a part of the game where we could do our thing, what a real blessing to be a part of tonight."

Pearland will play the winner of Friday's game between West champion Honolulu and Metro champion Massapequa (NY).