Michigan Holds On to Beat Ohio, Wins 2021 LLWS World Championship

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVAugust 29, 2021

Taylor, Mich.'s Jackson Surma (22) hits a double off Hamilton, Ohio's Chance Retherford, left, driving in two runs, during the first inning of the Little League World Series Championship baseball game in South Williamsport, Pa., Sunday, Aug. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar)
AP Photo/Tom E. Puskar

Michigan secured the 2021 Little League World Series title with a 5-2 win over Ohio in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on Sunday.

Taylor North Little League is the first Michigan team to win the championship since 1959.

SportsCenter @SportsCenter

MICHIGAN WINS THE <a href="https://twitter.com/LittleLeague?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@LittleLeague</a> WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP! 🏆 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LLWS?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LLWS</a> <a href="https://t.co/d6UhjfZDw5">pic.twitter.com/d6UhjfZDw5</a>

Jackson Surma especially came up big in the all-Great Lakes final, finishing with two hits and four RBI in the win. Jakob Furkas drove in the other run for Michigan.

West Side Little League had six hits as a team, but the Ohio squad continually left runners on base as the Michigan pitching duo of Ethan Van Belle and Gavin Ulin allowed just two runs.

Ohio had the chance to set the tone early with the bases loaded in the first inning until Van Belle came through with a clutch strikeout:

Little League @LittleLeague

Michigan, getting out of an early jam here in Williamsport! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LLWS?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LLWS</a> <a href="https://t.co/WHCHQYZzrC">pic.twitter.com/WHCHQYZzrC</a>

Van Belle escaped danger several more times and finished with just one run allowed and eight strikeouts in four innings.

Michigan did a better job of capitalizing on its opportunities, scoring three runs in the first to take the early lead. Surma put his team on the board with a two-run double:

Little League @LittleLeague

Jackson Surma puts Michigan on the board! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LLWS?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LLWS</a> <a href="https://t.co/iWY8Jg9JPU">pic.twitter.com/iWY8Jg9JPU</a>

Cooper Clay helped Ohio cut the deficit with an RBI single in the second, but runs were tough to come by for the team from Hamilton.

When it got two runners on in the fifth, a 6-4-3 double play ended the inning:

Little League @LittleLeague

Inning-ending double-play! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LLWS?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LLWS</a> <a href="https://t.co/IVnMJLJ0sZ">pic.twitter.com/IVnMJLJ0sZ</a>

That became a key moment as Surma came through again at the plate in the bottom of the fifth, building a cushion with another big run-scoring hit:

ESPN @espn

Michigan drives in 2️⃣ runs in the bottom of the fifth to take a 5-1 lead 💥💥 <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LLWS?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LLWS</a> <a href="https://t.co/ZKEWEQMT2a">pic.twitter.com/ZKEWEQMT2a</a>

Ulin loaded the bases and walked in a run in the sixth, but he closed out the win for the team from Taylor by forcing Chance Retherford into a game-ending flyout.

This year's tournament was limited to only teams within the United States instead of the usual international competition because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It allowed two teams from each region to advance to Williamsport instead of just the winner.

These teams took advantage by setting up the first-ever regional rematch in the final. 

"Two good teams coming out of the Great Lakes, it's such an awesome thing to be able to say," Michigan manager Rick Thorning said before the game.

Ohio lost its first game in the regional tournament before advancing to the final. It took a similar path in the national tournament, needing four straight wins in the consolation bracket to advance to the title game.

Michigan was much more dominant over the past month, going 4-0 in the regional competition before suffering just one loss to Hawai'i in the main bracket. The team avenged its lone defeat in the Hank Aaron Final to reach the championship.

It still came down to one game for all the marbles, and it was Michigan that came out on top.

This tournament was an exciting return after it was canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19, but fans should hope the full field can come back in 2022 with full international competition.