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Jackie Robinson West’s superb defense keys 6-1 win

Updated: August 20, 2014 7:37AM



SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Jackie Robinson West beat Pearland of Texas 6-1 in an elimination game Tuesday night. It plays the loser of Wednesday’s game between Taney of Philadelphia and Mountain Ridge of Las Vegas on Thursday.

What did Jackie Robinson West, now one of three teams left in the United States’ pool, really earn?

An even bigger spotlight. More attention. And likely its biggest crowd to date — one that could dwarf the attendance of some major-league clubs.

That’s fine to the boys from Jackie Robinson West.

‘‘I like it,’’ left fielder Darion Radcliff said. ‘‘It’s like I’m famous.’’

The winner of Thursday’s game will advance to the United States championship. Before then, Jackie Robinson West has a day off to contend with.

There may be fewer teams left, but the autograph seekers haven’t dwindled. That means more signatures. More pictures. More unfamiliar faces wanting to get to know the team.

The plan?

‘‘Well, I’m sleeping in, so they’re sleeping in, too,’’ manager Darold Butler said. ‘‘Just [going to] keep everything relaxed. They like hanging out at the game room, hanging out with the other teams that are still here.’’

On Tuesday, Jackie Robinson West looked like it could handle any situation.

Its offense was not as good as it has been. A pair of three-run innings accounted for its offensive totals. Instead, it was the defense that earned it the win.

Pitching for the second consecutive day, starter Josh Houston only allowed one earned run in five innings — the only earned run Houston allowed in 11 innings in three appearances.

Second baseman Marquis Jackson, the team’s hardest-throwing pitcher, turned double plays twice. That’s rare in Little League.

Butler said the players ‘‘take pride in their defense.’’

Said Jackson, who also closed Tuesday: ‘‘We go through fielding drills, and most of them are double plays because we get in that situation a lot, and when they happen, we just turn them.’’

A nerve-racking moment came in the third inning when leadoff hitter Pierce Jones appeared to injure himself on a diving attempt in right field. Trainers looked at Jones in the dugout. He returned to the field in the fourth.

However, Jaheim Benton was inserted into right field for Jones in the fifth. It’s significant because Jackie Robinson West has played the same eight fielders throughout the tournament.

After the game, Butler said Jones is ‘‘a little banged up’’ but would be ready to play Thursday.

‘‘It’s exciting to me here because it’s fun and playing baseball all summer, missing days of school,’’ Jackson said. ‘‘It’s just a fun experience.’’

Email: sgruen@suntimes.com

Twitter: @SethGruen



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