SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – At times it felt like Coeur d’Alene was playing back home Friday at Lamade Stadium. Enthusiastic fans chanted all game, inspired their players and created a day the Coeur d’Alene Little Leaguers will never forget.
Coeur d’Alene and Grosse Pointe Woods, Michigan, also produced a game that those who witnessed will not soon forget. And in defeat, Coeur d’Alene showed exactly why it has become one of the world’s best Little League Baseball teams.
Christopher Reynolds threw 4 2/3 brilliant innings, striking out 11 and Coeur d’Alene scored four two-out runs in the second and third innings, building a four-run lead. Michigan, though, scored four times in the bottom of the sixth and Ryan Knaebel’s one-out, walk-off single gave it a 5-4 win in the Little League World Series opener for both teams.
“This was a wonderful, awesome baseball game. It went back and forth and people were on the edge of their seat,” Coeur d’Alene coach Sean Cherry said. “This is a good team and we played excellent baseball against them. From the beginning, all I’ve asked this team is that they go out and play as well as I know they’re capable of playing and this was as good as these guys were of playing tonight. They played an excellent game.”
Coeur d’Alene plays again at 5 p.m. on Saturday against Peachtree City, Georgia, as it hopes to keep its championship dreams alive. Michigan advances to Sunday’s winner’s bracket semifinal final to play Hawaii.
Coeur d’Alene led 4-0 with two outs in the fifth, but a potential third out was dropped and Jarren Purify scored on an error following a Reynolds strikeout.
Michigan put its first five batters on base starting the sixth with Elliott Nedherood making it 4-3 with an RBI single. An error tied the game and Knaebel rocketed a shot off the third-base bag and into left field as the speedy Reggie Sharpe, who had singled two batters earlier, scored the winning run.
Michigan outscored its opponents 46-6 at the Great Lakes Regional, but Reynolds was overpowering before reaching the 85-pitch count limit with two outs in the fifth inning. The hard-throwing right-hander brilliantly mixed his pitches, and continued the mastery he showed at the Northwest Regional, not allowing an earned run and striking out 11.
Going back to regionals, Reynolds is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA. He has allowed just five hits in 15 2/3 innings and struck out 32.
“He’s so sharp. Every time I put that guy on the mound, he just impresses me,” Cherry said. “What an good outing. That is a damn good hitting team and I’m really impressed. He should be really proud.”
Coeur d’Alene took a 3-0 second-inning lead when it scored three two-out runs. Braeden Newby (2 for 3) ignited the rally with a lead-off single and moved to third on Karl Schwarzer’s two-out double. Both scored a batter later when Caden Symons slammed a double into left field.
Newby again sparked a rally in the third, hitting a two-out double and scoring on a wild pitch. By the fourth, eight Coeur d’Alene players had reached base, giving their energetic fans even more to cheer.
“It’s a long way to come from Idaho and we have gotten support for every one of our kids and players and that means so much to those kids emotionally,” Cherry said. “I can’t thank them enough for all the enthusiasm and support and time and money that they have put to be here with their players.”
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