Kody Kundick said that he "wasn't having a good tournament" until yesterday. His two-run double sparked a nine-run inning to propel Lexington, Ky., into the Cal Ripken 12-and-Under World Series playoffs, which start today in Aberdeen.
Kundick, who plays golf, used his driving swing for the bases-loaded double, breaking a 3-3 tie in the fifth inning and leading to a 12-3 rout of Waite Park, Minn.
"It felt really good because I had not hit the ball well since our first game," said Kundick, whose team took second in the American Division. The top two teams qualified for the single-elimination playoffs.
Lexington and Raleigh, N.C., were each 3-1 in the division, but the latter took top seed by virtue of its 2-1 victory over Lexington in pool play.
Left-hander Phil Donovan was the winning pitcher. He contributed offensively with a bases-empty homer in the first, and he tripled home the eighth run in the crucial inning.
Lexington drew the unenviable task of playing Oahu, Hawaii, last year's runner-up, today in single elimination.
"[Hawaii hasn't] faced elimination like we did today, and that should help us," said Lexington manager Mark Blythe.
Down to the wire
Pine Bluff, Ark., won its second in a row, 2-0 over Kennewick, Wash., to finish 2-2 in the National Division, but it needed St. Mary's County to upset Oahu last night to stay alive.
A St. Mary's win would have created a three-way tie for second, resulting in Pine Bluff's advance due to tiebreakers. But Hawaii, the National champion, rolled, 9-3. St. Mary's (1-3) was eliminated. Greenwich, Conn. (2-2) took second by virtue of a 5-1 win over Pine Bluff.
Pine Bluff's Claude Johnson won't be in the playoffs after he single-handedly beat St. Mary's County, 7-0, on Wednesday night. Johnson was perfect through five innings, hit two homers and drove in four runs.
Yesterday, he pitched the final inning, striking out all three batters he faced to give him 17 strikeouts in six innings over two days.
"Big Claude is a specimen of an athlete," Cal Ripken said. "I watched him pitch and his coaches told me he can throw a football 60 yards and is probably a better football player.
"I watched him win the home run derby and saw him short-hop the IronBirds' fence. He has a lot of tools, and it almost seems unfair in some ways."