WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) -- The downside to winning the U.S. title for Bellaire, Texas, is that it won't have Ross Haggard available to pitch in Saturday's Little League World Series championship.
Not that Bellaire manager Terry McConn is concerned. He said he's got three other capable pitchers ready to go against Maracaibo, Venezuela, in the title game.
None of them, however, have been as good as Haggard.
The lanky Little Leaguer capped an exceptional series performance with a 13-strikeout, four-hit outing in Bellaire's 8-0 win over Davenport, Iowa, in Thursday night's U.S. final.
Haggard finished with two shutout wins, a save, 27 strikeouts and five hits allowed in 16 2-3 innings at Williamsport. He also pitched a no-hitter a week earlier in the South Region championship game.
"I can't imagine another week (like this)," Haggard said. "To be in the World Series and to have my best pitching, that's awesome."
Asked what sparked him, he said, "I think it's because I wanted to show everyone on TV that I was good."
Now everyone knows.
The rest of his teammates are no slouches either, considering Bellaire had never before advanced past the district round.
Together, they'll take their balanced hitting attack and deep pitching staff against an upstart Maracaibo team that knocked off favored Tokyo 5-4 in the international final earlier in the day.
Whoever the opponent, it doesn't matter.
As McConn said: "It's just been a blur. I'm ready to play that World Series game on Saturday and get back home and go to work and think about some of this stuff."
Maracaibo's week has been just as exciting. Despite sporadic offensive punch, and after barely reaching the international final on the strength of a last-inning rally to beat Toronto 5-4, Maracaibo is on a roll.
In a jubilant celebration in which Maracaibo manager Eduvino Quevedo hugged every player on the field -- including Tokyo's.
"His main goal was to win a championship," said interpreter Luis Sanchez, speaking for Quevedo. "He came here and beat a very great team, and he's very happy. He's happy with himself and happy with the team."
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