Mexico, Texas grab last 2 regional final spots

Mexico, Texas grab last 2 regional final spots

The final spots in the International and United States Championship games were up for grabs on Thursday at the Little League World Series.

Mexico was the first to punch its ticket, rolling past Venezuela to set up a clash with Japan on Saturday. That set the stage for a dramatic finale, in which a walkoff homer in extra innings lifted Texas past California and onto a U.S. championship matchup against Pennsylvania.

GAME 1
Mexico (Seguro Social Little League): 11
Latin America (Cardenales Little League, Venezuela): 0

Mexico scored three runs in both the second and third innings to set up a comfortable victory. Daniel Zaragoza struck the first blow with a two-run double, and Andres Villa added an RBI single. An inning later, Alberto Bustos smacked a two-run double of his own before a Venezuela error made it a 6-0 game.

Bustos extended the lead to 8-0 with a two-run homer in the fifth, finishing with four RBIs. Raul Leon then provided the final exclamation mark with a three-run shot in the sixth.

This was Mexico's third straight elimination-game win -- by a combined score of 36-4 -- since a 3-1 loss to Japan on Sunday. Those two teams will have their rematch in Saturday's International Championship (12:30 p.m. ET, ABC) after Japan advanced with a 5-4 win over Venezuela on Wednesday.

NOTABLE PERFORMER
Zaragoza not only went 2-for-4 at the plate with that go-ahead two-run double, but also started on the mound and came up one out shy of a shutout. Over his 5 2/3 innings of work, Zaragoza allowed only three hits (all singles) and two walks while striking out six. Gerardo Lujano then came in to record the final out.

MUST-SEE PLAY
After Venezuela led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a single, Mexico quickly erased the baserunner. When Angel Uranga hit a high bouncer down the third-base line, Bustos made a leaping grab to his right and started a smooth around-the-horn double play.

GAME 2
Southwest (Pearland West Little League, Texas): 9
West (Sweetwater Valley Little League, California): 7 (8 innings)

A wild, homer-happy game finally came to an end when Texas' Caleb Low smacked a walk-off two-run shot in the eighth inning, the seventh long ball of the night. Texas accounted for four of those, including Ben Gottfried's game-tying homer leading off the bottom of the eighth.

This one also started with a bang, as California got a three-run homer from Walker Lannom in the top of the first, only to see Texas grab the lead back in the bottom of the frame on a Zack Mack grand slam. But California came back with two more long balls in the third, a solo shot from Levi Mendez and a go-ahead two-run shot from Jacob Baptista.

Down 6-4, Texas tied the score on Mack's RBI single in the fourth and Marco Gutierrez's homer leading off the bottom of the fifth. California grabbed a 7-6 lead in the top of the eighth on Baptista's RBI single, but Texas ultimately rallied to beat California for the second time in the tournament. Texas now will face Pennsylvania (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) after losing the teams' first meeting, 3-0, on Wednesday.

NOTABLE PERFORMERS
Mack was a force at the plate, finishing 2-for-3 with two walks, a grand slam, two runs scored and five RBIs. Lannom and Baptista both homered and drove in three for California.

Andrew Simon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.