American must beat Indiana to stay alive
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- To keep its World Series hopes alive, the Fairfield American Little League team will have to beat a weary squad just 24 hours removed from a thorough beating.
But American manager Bill Meury is by no means overconfident.
American had Sunday off after its 12-0 win over Kearney, Neb., on Saturday. To stay alive, it'll have to beat the Great Lakes champion, New Castle, Ind., Monday night at 8 p.m. at Lamade Stadium on ESPN2.
Indiana (1-1) will face elimination for the first time in Williamsport. New Castle fell 13-3 to McAllister Park, Texas on Sunday at Volunteer Stadium.
Despite its lopsided loss, Meury saw cause for concern from New Castle's offense.
"They put the ball in play the entire game," he said. "They swing the bat, there's no doubt about it."
Will Lucas will get his first start since July 25. Lucas is 0-0 with a 5.14 ERA in two relief appearances thus far at the World Series.
"I think if Will mixes up his pitches and hits his spots he's going to be good," Meury said.
"He's a real competitor and we like it when we've got him out on the mound."
Ryan Meury and Matt Kubel -- who threw 4 2/3 shutout innings in Saturday's win -- are unavailable due to pitch-count rules. Should Lucas need relief, Matty Clarkin and Michael Ghiorzi are available for Fairfield.
"(Clarkin) is a crafty little lefty," Meury said. "There are a bunch of crafty lefties who have gone out here and done well ... and if we have to go to (Ghiorzi) we'll go to him."
Indiana manager Tim Porter would not name a starting pitcher, but the team's No. 1 Cayden Smekens is available. Smekens allowed just two hits, striking out seven in three innings, taking a no-decision in Indiana's opening-game -- a 4-0 win over Gresham, Ore.
"That's possible," Porter said when asked if Smekens would start. "Anytime we have him available we have to weigh that option ... it'd be good to be able to throw him." Janson Anderson, Niah Williamson, Mason Gillis and Cory Murphy all pitched in Sunday's loss, but are available to start or pitch in relief for New Castle.
Indiana will be led offensively by Hunter McCubbins, the team's catcher and cleanup hitter. McCubbins is batting .600 with a home run and three RBIs through two World Series games.
"He does a lot of good things for us," Porter said of McCubbins. "When we get him on base, usually good things happen."
Fairfield's Nos. 2 and 3 hitters have served as its offensive catalysts. Second hitter, Biagio Paoletta, is hitting .571 and Lucas is batting .800 in Williamsport, the second highest batting average of all U.S. players. Each has a home run.
Fairfield is 4-0 when facing elimination this summer, and Meury believes it is his squad's ability to drown out pressure that's made it successful.
"They're not worried about the fact that it's an elimination game," Meury said. "They just focus on the game and their at-bats and their pitches."
Porter's squad is also adept at playing well when it is down. Indiana's five losses are the most of any U.S. squad still alive.
"Don't count us out," he said. "We'll get out there (Monday) and play baseball and we're going to play some good baseball (Monday)."