SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. - Outfielder Thomas Neal's lunging catch saved an extra-base hit and helped the Hastings All-Stars from Vancouver beat Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, 13-9 on Friday in a Little League World Series slugfest.
The teams combined for 27 hits, but several defensive gems by Canada had fans buzzing.
Neal's catch was the most impressive after Mexico's Eduardo Abrego smacked a sinking liner to left-centre with two outs in the third and a runner on first. Neal dashed to his right before diving for the catch with an outstretched glove just before the ball hit the turf.
"The moment I saw it, I just had this feeling he was going to catch it," said pitcher Ataru Yamaguchi.
The 13-year-old outfielder let out a roar before being mobbed by teammates on his way back to the dugout.
"I told him he was my best friend now," the 13-year-old Yamaguchi joked. "He wasn't before. He was my fourth (best friend), just to clarify."
Canada led 8-1 in the top of the second before Mexico rallied with the long ball. Ramon Ballina hit two homers.
Mexico manager Fernando Rios kept the message simple in encouraging his players after they fell behind.
"Basically our work is to cheer them up and to tell them not to give up," he said through interpreter Sergio Guzman. "And not to be impatient at the plate. Just hit some good baseballs.
Canada escaped another jam in the sixth to hold on. Neal caught a hard liner to centre and nearly threw the ball into the infield expecting runners to tag before realizing it was the last out of the game.
He wasn't the only Canada player who impressed with the glove. Third baseman Kolby Buljevic grabbed a tough bouncer to set up a double play just before Neal's sparkling catch in the third. Leftfielder Carter Kada-Wong later fell backward to catch a high fly that was made more difficult because of steady showers.
"Our defence has been the strongest point of our team said manager Vito Bordignon. "We've made so many plays and unbelievable plays."