SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT — The road to the world championship of Little League Baseball got a little longer for the kids from Lafayette.
On Sunday, the Southwest champs Sunday were dispatched to the losers bracket of the 65th world series by Billings, Mont., 3-1.
They will play a survival game at 7 p.m. Monday against hometown favorite Keystone, Pa., from nearby Clinton County.
The game was originally scheduled for 3 p.m., but security officials asked Little League to move it to 7 p.m. so they could better accommodate the anticipated large attendance.
A record crowd of 41,848 watched the first Keystone game, and 33,215 the second. ESPN2 will televise the game.
Asked how he would deal with playing possibly before a large crowd, Lafayette manager Leland Padgett responded: “We’ll play like they are cheering for us.” Lafayette played before 10,555 in their loss to Billings.
Sunday’s defeat was the first for Lafayette along the tournament trail, something Padgett said they would have to get over. Part of the job as coaches is to teach the kids how to lose, he said.
His assessment on the game was “not so much what we did but what we didn’t do.”
Being specific, he said Haden Erbe threw too many pitches and did not get many first-pitch strikes. His pitch count was 63 after three innings, and he had to come out with two out in fifth when it reached 87.
Padgett also was disappointed with the offense.
“I think we need to swing the bats better,” he said. Patrick Zimmer “kept us off balance,” he said.
Zimmer held Lafayette to one hit through the first three innings. Each team had five hits.
Billings scored its first two runs in the third on Ben Askelson’s liner down the left field line.
Lafayette threatened in fourth when Nate Cox singled with one out. After a fly out, Cain Castille singled, but Ethan Hines grounded to third forcing out Cox to end the inning.
The Northwest champs made it 3-0 with a run in the top of the sixth.
But Lafayette did not go quietly. Nick Fruge led off the bottom of the inning with a long fly to right that was dropped for an error. He scored on a wild pitch to get the Louisiana rooters cheering and hoping for a comeback.
After Cox bounced out and Austin Primeaux struck out, Castille doubled to center for his third hit of the game, and Lafayette still was alive.
But Hines grounded to third, and Zimmer faked a throw to first and tagged Castille to end the game.
Zimmer pitched the first five innings, with Joseph Battaglia giving up the Lafayette run in the sixth. Battaglia picked up a save.
Erbe labored on the mound with only 57 of his 87 pitches being strikes. He still struck out nine while not walking anyone.
Despite dropping into the losers bracket, Padgett said he believes he has enough pitchers to come back and vie for the title.
Lafayette would have to win five games to accomplish that feat.