SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — A big bat and a no-hitter have Mexico just a couple of wins away from its first Little League World Series title game since 2008.
If Mexico gets that far, it could bring home a title for the first time in 25 years.
Miguel Padilla is the bat, and his calm and collected manner have propelled Mexico to two eye-catching wins so far, a 6-1 win over Puerto Rico and a 10-0 no-hitter Monday night over a Canadian team that had earlier upset Japan.
No. 9 primarily plays third base and pitches, and he shut down Puerto Rico with 4 ⅓ innings of one-run baseball with eight strikeouts. He’s also smacked home runs in each of Mexico’s games. Miguel and David Zarate went back-to-back in the first inning against Puerto Rico.
“Like the manager says, we have to keep working and keep comfortable,” Miguel said through an interpreter. “I’m very happy to hit two homers.”
Mexico, representing Matamoros Little League from the Texas border near the Gulf of Mexico, next plays on Wednesday against a team from a country that was once a Little League powerhouse, Taiwan. Miguel will be eligible to take the mound under Little League pitch-limit rules.
Hernan Mireles threw two of the five hitless innings on Monday against Canada, allowing one walk. David finished off the no-no with three innings of perfect relief that included six strikeouts.
It was the first no-hitter Hernan has participated in, he said after the game. The catch? He didn’t even know it happened until the postgame news conference.
“It’s the World Series. All the games are different,” manager Victor Salazar said through a team interpreter. “We have to work on keeping the kids concentrated and focused on the next games.”
Mexico isn’t lacking for star power, either. While David’s handiwork on the mound was on full display Monday, he also hit a home run and a double in Mexico’s tournament-opening win over Puerto Rico.
Even with a tough test up next, a chance to become the first Mexican Little League World Series champs since 1997 is entering Matamoros’ field of view.
“It’s very important. We’ve had it in our minds all this time,” Salazar said. “It’s the goal to be champions and make history.”
Max Ralph is a journalism student at Penn State.