SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — As Ryan Harlost stepped to the mound yesterday, he took it all in.
Chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A!” droned over his left shoulder as he dipped it to deliver a warm-up pitch. South Korean flags waved furiously to his right. Little kids who asked for his autograph earlier in the week used makeshift sleds to slide down the hill toward most of the 22,000-plus fans who packed Lamade Stadium.
The Endwell, New York, pitcher admitted it made him uneasy. He sure didn’t show it.
Harlost led New York to the Little League World Series title, striking out eight and limiting South Korea to five hits in six innings in a 2-1 victory.
He also scored the deciding run on a passed ball in the fourth inning.
“I was a little nervous at first in front of a lot of people but it’s just another game and I felt confident going in,” Harlost said.
But it was more than just another game. Endwell snapped a five-year championship drought for U.S. teams on Little League’s biggest stage and gave New York its first title since 1964. Huntington Beach, California, won in 2011 and Mid Island from Staten Island won New York’s last World Series championship.
Conner Rush had the New York team’s only RBI to give Endwell a lead it wouldn’t relinquish in the bottom of the fourth. Harlost (2-0) scored the deciding run on a passed ball a batter later.
“I was just thinking get it in play any way you can,” Rush said. “Once that happens, you never know what can happen.”
Most of New York’s players had been on other teams together before. More than half of them were on the team that fell to last year’s World Series runner-up Red Land in the Mid-Atlantic Region Championship, leaving them one win shy of qualifying for a trip to South Williamsport. “It was all of our last years of Little League,” Rush said. “So it’s just awesome to know that we all came together to be the best team in the world.”