SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Win or lose, the Little League World Series team from Uganda has become a hometown favorite.
The first team from Africa to advance to South Williamsport in the 66-year history of the tourney did fall in its debut on Friday. Panama defeated the boys from Lugazi 9-3.
Uganda’s coaches said they didn’t expect any parents of the players to make the expensive transatlantic trip to Pennsylvania.
But Uganda has still drawn vocal fans who cheered wildly, especially after Daniel Alio’s towering home run to center in the sixth. He showed off a methodical homer trot that would have made David Ortiz proud.
“I thought I wouldn’t hit a home run,” the soft-spoken Alio said. “But my coach told me to make contact.”
Alio and his teammates, though, were the biggest stars. Manager Henry Odong said they’re proud to represent Africa, where baseball is an emerging sport.
“The rest of Africa is behind us,” manager Henry Odong said in recounting his message to players after early struggles at the plate. “People are watching ... just make contact.”
VANCOUVER, B.C. 13, NUEVO LAREDO, MEXICO 9
Outfielder Thomas Neal’s lunging catch saved an extra-base hit and helped Vancouver, British Columbia, beat Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.
The teams combined for 27 hits, but several defensive gems by Canada had fans buzzing.
SAN ANTONIO, TEXAS 5, PARSIPPANY, N.J. 2
Jordan Cardenas homered and pitched 2⅓ innings of hitless relief, and San Antonio, Texas, took advantage of defensive miscues to beat Parsippany, N.J.
Cardenas gave Texas an early lead with his solo shot to right in the bottom of the first. The Southwest champions added three more runs in the second.
NEW CASTLE, IND. 4, GRESHAM, ORE. 0
Mason Gillis drove in two runs with a check-swing double in a four-run fifth for New Castle, Ind.
Indiana’s Cayden Smekens struck out seven over three innings.