WESTFIELD — New Albany shut out New Albany (Ohio) 8-0 Friday to earn a spot in today’s Great Lakes Region championship game.
New Albany will face Grosse Pointe (Mich.) at 5 p.m. at Grand Park in Westfield. The game will be telecast on ESPN. A win would allow New Albany to play in the Little League World Series for the first time.
“Wow! Right?” New Albany coach Brian Jackson said. “A lot of people counted us out at district this year, but I knew what we had. I knew we had the ability, and they’ve become as mentally strong as any team out there.”
New Albany Little League has been in this position twice before. It didn’t go its way either time. In 2007, the Josh Rogers & Co. team lost 6-1 to Hamilton (Ohio) in the Great Lakes championship. In 2014, New Albany led Jackie Robinson West 5-0 after two innings, but the team out of Chicago came back for a 12-7 victory. West was later stripped of the regional championship because of its use of illegal players and the title was awarded to New Albany.
So this year’s team has a chance to become the first to actually play in the World Series. But, like the last two times, it will be very difficult. Grosse Pointe handed New Albany its only loss so far in the regional — 14-2 in four innings Wednesday.
Jackson doesn’t believe Wednesday’s performance was a good indication of what to expect today. In fact, New Albany committed as many errors in the fateful third inning of that game as it had all season.
“If you look at that game, it should have been 5-2 after the third inning and [instead] it was 14-2,” Jackson said. “We’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen again. We’re going to make some adjustments to our approach.”
If Friday was any indication, New Albany may be up for the challenge. The Indiana state champions shined on the mound, on defense and at the plate in the shutout victory.
“We had to regroup and they bounced back great,” Jackson said of his team.
After a scoreless first inning, New Albany exploded for five runs in the second. The inning started with an 8-pitch strikeout to Cody Jackson. The next seven batters either reached base, or knocked in a run.
“It was nice seeing the kids battle,” Jackson said. “We worked a lot on the mental approach at the plate and the hits really started coming.”
After Cody Jackson’s at-bat, Brian Wall saw eight pitches from Ohio starter Aiden Booth. Wall got the rally started with a single into right field. After Booth hit Chase Loesch with a pitch, Blaine Hamilton singled to load the bases. Cole Huett — New Albany’s No. 9 hitter — came through in a big way with a double into center field to score Wall and pinch-runner Cooper Anderson.
New Albany added three more runs on a pair of Ohio errors and Luke Kruer’s ground-out RBI that allowed Huett to cross the plate.
After a 1-2-3 inning from Loesch on the mound, New Albany tacked on three more runs in the third inning to essentially put the game away. Jackson started the inning with a single and Wall reached on a fielder’s choice. With one out, Loesch was hit by a pitch — again — and Huett’s ground ball scored Wall. Maddox Culpepper scored on an error to make it 7-0 and Maxwell Alexander’s RBI-single brought around Huett for the eighth run.
That was seven more runs than Loesch needed. He allowed just three hits and struck out seven Ohio batters in his complete-game shutout performance. He also got plenty of help from his defense, including gems from Jackson at shortstop, Gum at third base and Wall at second.
“Chase struck out seven batters, which means we had to make 11 plays behind him,” Coach Jackson said. “That’s a great team effort. Our defense showed back up after it didn’t show up against Michigan.”
GREAT LAKES REGION
WINNERS’ BRACKET FINAL
NEW ALBANY (IND.) 8, NEW ALBANY (OHIO) 0
New Albany (Ohio) 000 00—0 3 4
New Albany (Ind.) 053 00—8 7 1
W — Chase Loesch. L — Aiden Booth. 2B — Charlie Oakleaf (O), Cole Huett (NA).
Records — New Albany (Ohio) 2-2, New Albany (Ind.) 3-1.
GREAT LAKES REGION
At Westfield, Grand Park Sports Complex
Sunday, Aug. 5
Grosse Pointe Woods-Shore (Mich.) 7, Tri-Cities (Ill.) 2
New Albany (Ind.) 6, St. Matthews (Ky.) 1
WINNERS’ BRACKET SEMIFINALS
Monday, Aug. 6
Grosse Pointe (Mich.) 12, Wausau (Wis.) 2
New Albany (Ind.) 8, New Albany (Ohio) 5
ELIMINATION BRACKET QUARTERFINALS
Tuesday, Aug. 7
New Albany (Ohio) 4, Tri-Cities (Ill.) 0 (Tri-Cities eliminated)
St. Matthews (Ky.) 2, Wausau (Wis.) 1 (Wausau eliminated)
WINNERS’ BRACKET FINAL
Wednesday, Aug. 8
Grosse Pointe (Mich.) 14, New Albany (Ind.) 2
ELIMINATION BRACKET SEMIFINAL
Thursday, Aug. 9
New Albany (Ohio) 9, St. Matthews (Ky.) 1 (St. Matthews eliminated)
ELIMINATION BRACKET FINAL
Friday, Aug. 10
New Albany (Ind.) 8, New Albany (Ohio) 0 (New Albany (Ohio) eliminated)
GREAT LAKES CHAMPIONSHIP
Saturday, Aug. 11
New Albany (Ind.) vs. Grosse Pointe (Mich.), 5 p.m. (winning team advances to Little League World Series)