Westport likely to face 6-4 flamethrower Holman of Chula Vista

Micah Pietila-Wiggs cringes at the thought of batting against Chula Vista, Calif., ace Grant Holman again.

"I already have in the regular season, and I didn't do good against him," Pietila-Wiggs said with a laugh.

Now teammates at the Little League World Series, the star second baseman and the 6-foot-4 flamethrower have the West regional champion one win away from the U.S. championship game.

Holman, who threw a seven-inning no-hitter in his first LLWS start -- 13 strikeouts in a 3-0 win over Grosse Pointe, Mich. -- has been viewed as perhaps the most dominant pitcher here in South Williamsport, Pa.

Although Chula Vista manager Rick Tibbett wouldn't commit to a starter for Wednesday's U.S. semifinal against Westport, signs point to the tall right-hander taking the hill.

"We know that we're going to play a pretty good team," Tibbett said Thursday, "and they've got a pretty good pitcher I'm assuming they may start. We're figuring out our game plan accordingly."

Westport will have its top two pitchers -- right-handers Chad Knight and Harry Azadian -- available on Wednesday in a clash of dominant staffs. Holman, with his 70 mile per hour fastball, has looked overpowering thus far, but Westport's certainly prepared for the challenge.

"If you want to win this type of tournament, you're going to have to face them all," Westport manager Tim Rogers said Tuesday following practice. "He's had a ton of success."

Rogers wouldn't commit to a starter either, but both Knight and Azadian have been effective at the LLWS. In 9 1/3 innings (two starts), they've allowed a combined four runs on 10 hits and 14 strikeouts.

With both pitchers available even with the strict LL pitch counts, Rogers knows his team's in a favorable position.

"If you had told me we were going to have all our pitching available and be in the semifinals, where do I sign? That's where we are. ... We could not have asked to be in a better position," Rogers said after a 9-7 win over Sammamish, Wash., on Sunday that pushed Westport to 2-0 at the LLWS.

Chula Vista, with its loose demeanor and all, is 2-0, including 20-1 on the summer. This year's team out of Eastlake Little League hails from the same district as the 2009 LLWS champions (Park View LL), and is the latest in a line of strong teams out of the West regional.

"We don't want to be too serious," Holman said, "because if you're too serious, you're not having fun. But if you're having too much fun, then you're not working on the things you need to work on."

More Information
New England champion Westport (2-0) vs. West champion Chula Vista, Calif. (2-0)
Little League World Series, U.S. semifinals
WHEN: Wednesday, 8 p.m.
WHERE: Howard J. Lamade Stadium, South Williamsport, Pa.
ONLINE: Westport-news.com
TWITTER: @DougBonjour

Offensively, Chula Vista's shown pop up and down the order. Pietila-Wiggs has hit .571 with one homer and five RBIs, while Holman's slugged a grand slam.

Holman -- the tallest player at the LLWS -- peppered the strike zone in his start last Friday, walking just one. With downward movement to his ball because of his arm angle, he's sometimes fooled more than just opposing hitters.

"I've had some umpires tell me, `When we figure it out, it may be after the first inning,'" Tibbett said. "The balls are coming across are strikes. They're coming across so fast that they don't even have time to make a decision sometimes. They have to adjust to Grant's pitching."

He added, "He's got movement everywhere (with his pitches). His offspeed stuff is wicked when he gets it going."

If Knight gets the call opposite Holman, Westport's ace will certainly be ready for the moment.

"I think that's actually going to be a lot of fun," he said. "I'm really going to just take it in and enjoy it."

Dbonjour@scni.com; 203-255-4561 ext 114; twitter.com/DougBonjour



Region: New England

Last game: Beat Sammamish, Wash. 9-7

Runs for/against: 12/9

Players to watch: P/3B Chad Knight (1.38 ERA, 8K; .667 batting average, 2 RBIs), P/1B Harry Azadian (2-0, 3.60 ERA, 6K; .667 average, 1 home run, 4 RBIs); SS Ricky Offenberg (.500 average, 1 home run)


Region: West

Last game: Beat Newark, Del. 15-3 (4 innings)

Runs for/against: 18/3

Players to watch: P/SS Grant Holman (1-0, 0.00 ERA, 13K; 1 home run, 4 RBIs); 2B Micah Pietila-Wiggs (.571 average, 1 home run, 5 RBIs); P/IF Nick Mora (1-0, 1.50 ERA, 6K)