McCraw, Rhodes lead West Raleigh to Ripken Series title

Garrett McCraw.
Garrett McCraw.
Team Southeast from West Raleigh, representing the USA, defeated Mexico 5-2 Saturday in the World Championship game of the 2014 Cal Ripken World Series.

West Raleigh got all the runs it needed in the first inning. With a 1-0 lead, West Raleigh catcher Lane Rhodes slammed an opposite field three-run homer to right center to give the USA a 4-0 advantage.

Lane Rhodes.
Lane Rhodes.

In the third, West Raleigh’s Nolan McClean lifted a fastball over the left center field wall to extend the lead to 5-0.

Mexico’s Jesus Castillo popped a two-run homer in the fourth to narrow the USA lead to 5-2. But West Raleigh’s pitcher Garrett McCraw buckled down and went on to toss a complete game while striking out seven Mexico batters. McCraw, who gave up only five hits, retired 10 batters in a row at one point. He also scored the first run of the game when Matthew Willadsen drove him in after he had delivered a bloop double.

With one on and two out in the final inning, Mexico’s Castillo’s ripped what looked like a single to right but outfielder McClean fielded it quickly and cleanly and fired to Penn Sealey at first to throw out Castillo to end the game.

West Raleigh has had a strong program for several years, appearing in the tournament numerous times, but it was the first time the team has won the World Series title. West Raleigh won the USA championship in 2004 and in 2013 but fell in the World Series International Game.

West Raleigh coach Ryan Holjes brushed aside tears as the players and fans celebrated the title. “This is unbelievable man, just unbelievable,” he said. “It’s surreal, it’s more than we could ever dreamed of.”

A U.S.-based team had not won the title since 2009.

The Cal Ripken World Series features teams of 11-year-old and 12-year-old baseball players from throughout the world playing in Aberdeen, Md.

The tournament is named after retired Orioles iron man Cal Ripken Jr. It’s similar to Little League except teams play on a field with 70-foot base paths and a 50-foot pitching distance as compared to Little League’s 60-foot base paths and a 46-foot pitching distance.

McCraw was named Most Outstanding Player of the tournament as he sported a 3-0 tournament record along with two home runs. Rhodes was chosen as Most Outstanding Player in the championship game. Outfielder Paul Ryder was the Most Outstanding Player of the U.S. championship game Friday. He slugged a 3-run homer in West Raleigh’s 7-5 victory over Harford (Md.).

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