(CBS/AP) –– Joshua Houston had a clutch two-run single, reliever Cameron Bufford pitched a tense scoreless sixth inning, and Chicago’s Jackie Robinson West held off gritty Philadelphia 6-5 on Thursday night in a matchup at the Little League World Series.
The loss eliminated Philadelphia and prevented star pitcher Mo’ne Davis from getting one last shot to put another stamp on what had become her personal playground.
JRW, comprised of all back players, is making its first appearance in 31 years in the Little League World Series. The victory sends the Great Lakes region champs into the U.S. title game on Saturday against Las Vegas in Williamsport, Pa.
Las Vegas, the West champions, beat Philly 8-1 on Wednesday and humbled Chicago 13-2 in four innings in a mercy-rule game last Sunday behind five homers, including a grand slam by Brad Stone and two home runs from Austin Kryszczuk.
“Once again, the Jackie Robinson West All-Stars have showed why they are the pride of Chicago,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a congratulatory statement issued Thursday night. “I can’t wait to root for them in the United States championship game on Saturday, but regardless of the outcome, they have already won the hearts of an entire city.”
Emanuel told reporters at a watch party in Chicago the city will hold a parade for Jackie Robinson West when team members get back.
Davis, just the 18th girl to play in the Little League World Series and the only one to win a game on the mound, played first base the first two innings against Chicago before re-entering the game at third base in the bottom of the fifth. She had become the darling of the sports world with her amazing success and poise.
Bufford walked Scott Bandura to lead off the top of the sixth, putting the tying run at first. He then struck out Jahli Hendricks, induced Jared Sprague-Lott to hit into a fielder’s choice and walked dangerous Zion Spearman before getting Jack Rice on a fly to right to end it.
Philly trailed 6-2 after two innings but clawed back within a run on Tai Cummings’ long home run to center leading off the fifth.
The glare of the spotlight on Davis and her teammates had grown exponentially as the Little League World Series unfolded. Television ratings were up 143 percent Wednesday night from the corresponding game last year and this week she became the first Little Leaguer to grace the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Baseball is trying to lure young African-Americans back to the game, and the opponents Thursday night offered more evidence the strategy is making inroads.
That one inner-city team had to beat another for a spot in the U.S. title game was not lost on Major League Baseball Commissioner-elect Rob Manfred.
“With respect to baseball games, we try to take a position of neutrality,” Manfred said at Lamade Stadium. “I have to tell you a Philadelphia-Chicago matchup is pretty darn good. It’s so wonderful when people turn on their televisions and they see people from very different socio-economic backgrounds in a setting like this. When you have a diverse group like the Philadelphia group, it sends a message that baseball’s a wide-open sport.”
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