Little League W.S. Roundup

Sunday, August 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — The Little Leaguers from Maracaibo, Venezuela, arrived with only one bat, but departed with the World Series title after beating Bellaire, Texas, 3-2 on Saturday.

Ruben Mavarez pitched a four-hitter, struck out six and also doubled and scored as Venezuela claimed its second World Series championship in six years and fifth overall for Latin America.

Adrian Chourio singled and scored for Maracaibo, while Mavarez picked up his second win of the week.

Bellaire pitcher Alex Atherton threw a two-hitter, but was undone by two wild pitches and an error, which led to all three Maracaibo runs.

Bellaire missed a chance in the bottom of the sixth when Atherton singled and Nick Wills hit a two-out single, advancing Atherton to third.

With the crowd of 42,000 on its feet, Mavarez ended the game — and threw up his glove in the air — by striking out Hunter Johnson.

With Mavarez kneeling on the mound, the team came charging and piled up on top of him. Left fielder Marcel Prado came out carrying a Venezuelan flag, while the Bellaire players sat and watched in the dugout.

The team from Sierra Maestra hails from a poorer part of Maracaibo and had four players begin tournament play without spikes.

With the win, they'll now earn a trip to the capitol and a meeting with the president. Not bad for a team whose flight from Venezuela had to turn back because of mechanical problems, and lost its Series opener 10-0 to Tokyo.

The win was the 28th by international representatives, versus 26 won by U.S. teams.

Toms River, N.J. was the last U.S. team to win, beating Kashima, Japan, in 1998. Okasa won last year.

Two Texas teams have won the championship, the last being Westbury American-Houston, in 1966.

Sierra Maestra-Maracaibo is the ninth Venezuelan team to reach the Series, and second to claim the title after Coquivacoa-Maracaibo won it all in 1994.

Maracaibo never trailed after going up 2-0 in the first inning when Atherton loaded the bases and then threw two consecutive wild pitches.

There was some controversy on Bellaire's first run as Michael Johnson tripled down the third-base line, only to have umpire Andy Konyar initially call it foul, but quickly change it to fair. Because of Konyar's initial call, Maracaibo left fielder Marcel Prado did not immediately charge after the ball.

Atherton then drove Johnson in with a double.

Maracaibo went up 3-1 in the third when right fielder Drew Zizinia misplayed Manuel Castellano's fly ball, allowing Mavarez to score from second.

Bellaire cut the lead to 3-2 in the third when Mitchell Malone scored on Mavarez's wild pitch.

Earlier Saturday, actor Kevin Costner, NBA players' union executive director Billy Hunter and groundbreaking transplant surgeon Dr. Robert Stratta — all former Little Leaguers — were enshrined in the Little League Hall of Excellence.

``Baseball, Little League, was such a huge part of my life as a kid and now as a father,'' said Costner, who played Little League in Ventura, Calif. ``The memories are, in fact, so thick, that I have to brush them away from my face.''

Prior to the game, Hall of Famer George Brett was awarded the Bill Shea Distinguished Little League Graduate Award, which recognizes former Little Leaguers who have attained respected public status.

Friday night, Republican Presidential candidate and Texas Governor George W. Bush sent the Bellaire team a letter congratulating them on reaching the final.

``Determination and teamwork represent the spirit of Texas. I commend you for your hard work and dedication,'' Bush wrote. ``You make the Bellaire community and the Lone Star State proud.''