The renown Michigan-Ohio rivalry found its way into the Little League World Series as Hamilton West Side and Michigan played in Sunday's championship game. That chapter of the rivalry, and the Little League World Series championship, belonged to Michigan after a 5-2 win against Hamilton.
Hamilton had its chance for a comeback strike in the sixth inning. Trailing 5-1, Hamilton loaded the bases and scored on a walk from JJ Vogel. The next pitch, Chance Retherford flew out to center for the final out in the Little League World Series.
Michigan struck for three runs in the first inning. Pitcher Retherford got the first batter on a groundout, but Michigan got two runners in scoring position after a walk, a single and an error. Jackson Surma singled in the two runs and then came around to score himself on a groundout by Jakob Furkas.
Hamilton scratched a run back in the top of the second on a triple by Chase Moak and a single by Cooper Clay, but the inability to capitalize on scoring chances haunted Hamilton.
West Side had the bases loaded with no outs in the top of the third inning. Michigan pitcher Ethan Van Belle struck out the next two Hamilton batters. With two now out, Retherford, the runner on third, was picked off to end the scoring chance.
Hamilton also had the bases loaded in the first inning. With one out, Noah Davidson walked to advance Kaleb Harden to third base and Vogel to second. Van Belle then got Maddox Jones to pop out to the shortstop and Levi Smith to strike out, preventing Hamilton from crossing the plate.
Van Belle struck out the side in the fourth inning, ending his day on the mound with five hits, three walks and one run allowed with eight strikeouts. Gavin Ulin finished the game for Michigan.
Michigan added two more runs in the fifth inning, again a two-run single by Surma. Surma was 2-for-3 with four runs batted in and a run scored.
Hamilton did get a run to cross in the sixth inning, but needed more than the single score.
Moak was hit by a pitch with one out and Tyler Donges walked to follow. After another strikeout, Kaleb Harden was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Vogel walked to score Moak and bring Retherford up down 5-2. On the first pitch he saw, Retherford sent a fly ball to centerfield, but just missed barreling the ball for more runs.
Camped under the ball, Michigan centerfielder Furkas caught the final out and rushed to celebrate on the mound while sticking the last ball into his back pocket.
Both Hamilton and Michigan advanced from the Great Lakes region. Michigan topped Hamilton 9-1 in the regional final which would normally send Hamilton home, but with no international teams in the 2021 Little League World Series, both regional champion and regional runner-up advanced.
The contest was Michigan's second championship game appearance and first since beating California 12-0 in the 1959 World Series. Ohio's loss was its first championship appearance.
Hawaii defeated South Dakota 5-0 in the consolation finals prior to the championship.