Aug 24, 2011 9:25 PM by Scott Breen - Q2 Sports
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, PA - Ben Askelson led off the bottom of the 7th inning with a bomb to leftfield, sending the Billings Big Sky All-Stars to Saturday's U.S. championship game at the Little League World Series.
ESPN/ABC commentator Brent Musburger opened Wednesday's Little League World Series broadcast by saying, "It is a delight for me to be here tonight. I never expected be doing a Little League baseball game involving the old hometown team of Billings, Montana."
The Billings Big Sky All-Star are battling Huntington Beach, California, in tonight's undefeated semifinal. The winner advances to Saturday's U.S. Championship game.
Big Sky had a chance to win when Patrick Zimmer doubled with one out in the bottom of the 6th, but he was called out sliding into 3rd base after a perfect throw on Connor Keickbusch's sac bunt attempt. Cole McKenzie grounded out to 1st to end the inning and force extras in a scoreless game.
Hunting Beach loaded the bases with only one out in the top of the 2nd inning, but Big Sky pitcher Cole Mckenzie struck out the next batter. McKenzie then threw a wild pitch to the backstop which was fielded by catcher Andy Maehl, who fired to McKenzie recording the third out on a tag at the plate.
McKenzie walked one batter in the top of the 1st inning, but pitched Billings out of the jam with a strikeout and a pair of groundouts. Huntington Beach later left runners stranded at 2nd and 3rd base in the 4th inning when McKenzie struck out the final batter on a high, inside fastball. McKenzie threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings with four strikeouts before reaching Little League's maximum pitch count of 85, and giving way to reliever Sean Jones.
California left-handed pitcher Nick Partto left also left in the 5th inning, after striking out 8 of the first 10 Big Sky batters and throwing 50 pitches (43 for strikes) without giving up a run.
Gabe Sulser earned Montana's 1st hit in the 3rd inning on a grounder back to Pratto. Pratto was called for interference after he tripped Sulser on the 1st base line while trying to make the out. McKenzie connected on Montana's first extra base hit with a double in the 4th inning. Billings batters had only faced one lefty in their last 185 plate appearances entering tonight's game.