SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- The boys from Billings keep making Montana Little League history.
The first team from the state to advance to South Williamsport overcame a shaky start and three solo homers Thursday by the sluggers from Rapid City, S.D., to win its Little League World Series debut, 6-4.
Connor Kieckbusch and his teammates were understandably a little anxious when they first trotted on to the manicured field at Lamade Stadium, with about 11,000 fans watching their every move.
Those nerves disappeared after a five-run fourth inning highlighted by Kieckbusch's two-run single and Cole McKenzie's two-RBI double with two outs.
"I felt kind of nervous (initially) because we're in Williamsport and pretty much nationals, and I didn't know what to expect," Kieckbusch, 12, said. "As the game went on, I kind of relaxed."
Montana trailed 2-0 after two innings before breaking through in the fourth against South Dakota starter Brett Beyer, working deep into counts to get runners on base.
Kieckbusch's high fly to shallow center fell just in between two fielders to score two runners with the bases loaded. The next hitter, McKenzie, lined an opposite-field double to the left-field wall to score two more runs for a 6-2 lead.
On the mound, McKenzie allowed six hits and four runs over five innings for the win. He allowed all three homers, including two by 5-foot-9 South Dakota slugger Erik Petry, 12.
Petry's first shot, lined over the "Little League" sign above the left-center wall 225 feet away, sent his first-base coach dancing down the foul line to greet his power hitter. It was hard to tell who was happier -- the coach or the giddy players who skipped out of the dugout behind him.
Hayden McGriff added a solo shot in the fifth before Montana's Sean Jones got the final three outs for the save. Hayden's father, manager Kasey McGriff, told his disappointed players to put the loss behind them.
"If you look at the stats, obviously you wouldn't guess the outcome of the game," he said. "They fought hard. There is nothing to be sad for."
His Montana counterpart, Gene Carlson, said his team's patient approach at the plate paid off when the team settled down.
"They always look for a good pitch to hit," he said. "They're well-disciplined hitters -- sometimes."
Lafayette, La. 2, Warner Robins, Ga. 0
Reliever Haden Erbe got out of a bases-loaded jam with nobody out in the sixth and Lafayette, La., held on for a victory over Warner Robins, Ga.
Georgia broke through against Louisiana starter Ethan Hines, who struck out six before getting lifted in favor of Erbe. The 13-year-old right-hander got the final three outs for the save, including a Dillon Toms' comebacker to end the game between two favorites for the Little League crown.
Erbe arrived at the mound to get a short pep talk and a wink from manager Leland Padgett.
No sweat, his closer said.
"I was confident, I've been in that situation a few times and it's come out in a positive way," Erbe said.
Erbe also made a strong throw from the hole to outstretched first baseman Austin Primeaux with two outs and two runners on in the third to end another rally.
Erbe's night was all the more impressive given Georgia's penchant for comeback victories this year.
"Good job, (Padgett) made a change when we started to hit," manager Phillip Johnson said. "But they made a change and got us at the end."
Logan Arnett went 3-for-3 to lead Georgia, which couldn't start pitcher Jake Fromm after manager Phillip Johnson said his ace hurt his back in practice.
Fromm, 13, did start at first base and went 0-for-3.
Mexicali, Mexico 3, Kaoshiung, Chinese Taipei 0
Jorge Jacobo struck out 12 and tossed a two-hitter to open the Little League World Series and lead Mexico to a 3-0 victory over Chinese Taipei.
The 12-year-old right-hander pitched a gem and struck out the final five hitters. It was the first time a Chinese Taipei team had been shut out in 55 games at the series.
Mexico scored all the runs it would need in the top of the first inning, when Carlos Arellano singled and was sacrificed to second. Jacobo then doubled him home for a 1-0 lead before Alonso Garcia followed with an RBI single.
Jacobo finished 1-for-3 at the plate with two runs.
Chia-Hao Ko struck out five and allowed six hits to take the loss for Chinese Taipei.
Hamamatsu City, Japan 12, Oranjestad, Aruba 1
Yoshiki Suzuki hit a grand slam in the second inning and Mitsuhiro Uchida added three hits and three RBIs to lead Japan to a victory over Aruba.
Leading 1-0 heading into the top of the second, Japan sent 10 hitters to the plate and scored six runs. Suzuki had the big hit, a one-out grand slam to left-center field.
Uchida added an RBI single and Ken Igeta an RBI walk in the inning. The game ended after four innings because of Little League's 10-run rule.
Suzuki also pitched, striking out five in 2 2/3 innings for the win.
Gillian Wernet was 2-for-2 for Aruba and Endry Brito knocked home the lone Aruba run off a fourth-inning fielder's choice.