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Slick mound questioned at LLWS Volunteer Stadium

AP - Sports

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) -- Little League officials are confident the pitcher's mounds at the Little League World Series are safe a day after concerns were raised over a Delaware player being forced from a game because of injury.

A slick spot on the mound at Volunteer Stadium prompted coaches from Delaware and Chula Vista, Calif., to say that their pitchers' respective plant feet were at times slipping during their delivery.

Delaware pitcher Nathan Hardcastle was diagnosed with a strained Achilles tendon and left the game in the second inning on the advice of doctors, Delaware coach John Ludman said. Hardcastle played shortstop on Monday against Nashville.

"The mounds are professionally manicured," Little League president Stephen Keener said Monday. "(The grounds crew) always works on them after the game. After every game they prepare them just like they did before the game."

That preparation includes filling in the typical indentation caused by a pitcher's plant foot with clay, tamping that down, covering it with sand, applying water and then spreading more dirt.

Mounds at the Volunteer and Lamade stadiums are exactly alike, Keener said.

The managers didn't agree, saying their pitchers noticed a difference in playing at Volunteer.

In speaking to other players who have pitched off the mound at Volunteer, Ludman said they indicated it was slicker than at Lamade.

Chula Vista manager Rick Tibbett said he was aware of a difference. He informed his pitcher, Nick Mora, to adjust his throwing motion to avoid slipping.

"Yes, we did adjust to it. I know Nick was slipping off there a little bit," Tibbett said.

The game was delayed twice, when the grounds crew worked to roughen up the area.

Hardcastle was cleared to play Monday, when Delaware was eliminated from contention in a 10-0 loss to Nashville, Tenn.

The player's mother, Jenny Hardcastle, said the injury wasn't serious.

"They have him taped up and he's going to play," she said. "What 13-year-old wouldn't?"

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JUST ONE LOOK: Monday's elimination game between Taiwan and Puerto Rico didn't turn on a single play in the field or an at-bat.

According to Puerto Rico manager Erick Contreras, Taiwan's 6-4 win turned on a look.

Puerto Rico starter Leonardo Lizardi struggled with his control and tied a World Series record by hitting four batters in a game.

That included Yeh Tung-Jua getting beaned by a fastball that knocked him down. Jumping up immediately, Tung-Jua glared and took a step toward Lizardi, before taking off for first base.

"Nobody on the (Taiwan) team had made a gesture until the batter got hit in the head," Contreras said. "It scared (Lizardi). He just lost his ability to throw inside after that."

Tung-Jua just happens to be listed at 5-feet and 93 pounds, while Lizardi is 5-10, 186 pounds.

"I just pretended I was stronger than the pitcher," Tung Jua joked through Taiwan interpreter Chia-Hsien Lin, when the size difference between the two was brought up following the game.

Taiwan manager Lee Kuo-Chiang was quick to point out that his team didn't think any of the hit batters were intentional.

"I don't believe it was on purpose," Lee said through the interpreter. "I told our players that and that they should show proper sportsmanship and go to first base."

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A FIRST FOR AUSTRALIA: Australia, which had been shut out in its first two games, scored two runs during a 5-2 loss to Corpus Christi, Texas, in a consolation game.

Jake Sheldon hit a two-run double in the top of the third that gave Perth a short-lived 2-0 lead.

"We broke the doughnut," Australia manager Glen Tovey said. "It was a special moment. My son (Michael) scored the first run for Australia in the World Series. It was a special moment for all of us."

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TOO YOUNG TO DRIVE: Jack Vyletel, a 104-pound outfielder from Grosse Pointe, Mich., has a unique way of working out. His coach, Tom Mazzola, said the 5-foot-3 12-year-old pushes a Yukon SUV while it's in neutral.

The work paid off.

Vyletel provided some heavy lifting in powering a three-run home run over the left-field fence against Iowa on Saturday.

"He sprinted around the bases," Mazzola said. "That's something he'll remember for the rest of his life."

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PROTECTIVE INSTINCTS: When asked if he was nervous about the Czech Republic possibly rallying to beat his Canadian team on Saturday, coach Mark Keeping offered a thoughtful response.

"In that case you don't want to see a kid make a mistake where the whole world's watching and the game is pinned on him," Keeping said. "I don't want to see a kid have to go through that."

Canada hung on to win that game, 4-3.

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AP freelancer Todd Hoover contributed.

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