Venezuela began its second straight trip to the World Series in winning fashion, staving off a late rally by Houston to preserve a 5-4 victory. Bradenton (Fla.) finished off a comeback effort in the following game and earned 5-4 win of its own over the Chicago White Sox RBI squad.
Tylon Williams scored Bradenton's winning run in the seventh and final inning as Austin Bingham's single drove him in. Tyler Goff tied the game by scoring on a wild pitch just moments earlier.
Before that, Bradenton struggled offensively, as five of the team's eight hits and three of its five runs came in the final two innings.
"We weren't swinging like we normally swing," Bradenton manager Dwayne Brown said. "We normally hit the ball. But we just battled. We didn't play our best, but hey, we got a win."
Bradenton starting pitcher Parker Liston also settled in after struggling in the first inning, allowing three runs on three hits, including a leadoff triple and two-run homer. But from then on, Liston only allowed five additional hits, pitching six strong innings.
"He started throwing the ball like he can throw it," Brown said. "He was trying to overthrow the ball [earlier]."
Earlier, Venezuela took a 4-0 lead over Houston in the third inning, but Houston made things interesting with a four-run fifth.
Venezuela scored what would prove to be the winning run in the top of the fifth as Victor Brito's line-drive single to right drove in Jhon Pacheco.
Venezuela owns some experience in the event after playing in last year's World Series in Minneapolis, but still boasts plenty of new faces.
"We have a couple of players who are new this year, so it's really important for them to win their first game in the United States," manager Josner González said through a translator. "It's their first time in this competition and this country, so it's really important for us and we're going to keep going."
Venezuela was toppled in its second game, dropping a 3-2 result to the Chicago squad. Houston put itself in the 'W' column with an 11-1 decision over Bradenton.
Arizona was the only senior team to win both games on Thursday, defeating Harrisburg, 2-1, and Think Detroit, 7-3. Detroit also won an earlier game, 12-3, against Jackie Robinson RBI, which also dropped a 5-1 result to Harrisburg.
Fresh off a 2011 junior division World Series Championship, RBI Dominicana began its bid for a third consecutive title in impressive fashion, taking a 14-0 win over Arlington Boys & Girls Club. Other junior division winners on Thursday included Venice Boys & Girls Club over Harrisburg, 6-1, Chicago White Sox RBI over Atlanta, 9-5, and Jersey City over Detroit PAL, 4-3.
Play continues with four more senior division games and eight more junior division games on Friday throughout the Twin Cities. The teams' performance in round-robin play will determine the matchups in Saturday's playoffs.
Jordan Garretson is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.