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Little Leaguers Show True Grit

As residents of Greenville, N.C., are kept under a dusk-to-dawn curfew Thursday night because of Hurricane Bonnie, some of the town's youngest baseball champs will face off their counterparts from Toms River, N.J., in the American final of the Little League World Series.

Barring a rainout, the game will be played in Williamsport, Penn. The winner will advance to Saturday's Little League world championship game.

Team East of Toms River beat Team South of Greenville earlier this week. Despite that loss, Greenville stayed on top of their game Wednesday night to defeat Cypress, Calif., 6-4.

Going into the fourth inning of Wednesday's must-win game against Cypress, Greenville had to break out of a 10-for-54 hitting slump.

Star Greenville player Kevin Hodges started the rally from the batter's box, then ended the game from the mound.


Little League World Series umpires performing the YMCA dance.

With Greenville, N.C., down 4-0, Hodges led his team to victory, when he singled to start a four-run fourth inning, hit the second of back-to-back home runs in the fifth and struck out the final six batters.

"In the first four innings, I couldn't throw my curveball because they weren't swinging at it," Hodges said. "Then they started hitting my fastball."

Hodges, a quiet, red-headed left-hander, has given up two earned runs on five hits and struck out 17 batters in 12 innings to earn both of Greenville's wins in the series. He also has one- and two-hitters this season, and the first perfect game in a Southern Regional.

In the international pool, Sean Sargent hit his fourth homer of the World Series as Langley, Canada, beat Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, 9-3 to advance to Thursday's international championship game.

The undefeated Canadians will face Kashima, Japan, a team they beat 10-5 in seven innings behind five home runs four in the extra inning.

A Canadian team has never won the World Series and no Canadian team has gone to the international pool final since the round-robin format began in 1992. The last team from Canada to make it to the championship: Stoney Creek, Ontario, in 1965. It lost 3-1 to Windsor Locks, Conn.

"If you see me break into tears, you'll know how I feel. This is really special." Sargent said of Canada's 3-0 record. "Tell you what I was afraid of: That there'd be a `3' and an `0' but not necessarily in that order."

Langley, which has nine home runs in the series and 28 in the postseason, is the biggest team in this World Series, and the Canadians beat Dhahran with power.