LAKEWOOD RANCH -- With its offense held in check, Braden River's intermediate division team needed to manufacture a couple of late runs to secure passage to the championship game of the District 26 Little League All-Star tournament.
Braden River did just that in defeating Manatee West 4-3 on Wednesday at Lakewood Ranch Little League.
The victory earns the club a trip to Saturday's intermediate division game, while West heads to an elimination game against Buffalo Creek, which downed Manatee National 18-10 in Wednesday's other division game.
"It's huge, because somebody else has to use more pitchers," Braden River manager Chuck Buckner said. "One of these two teams is going to come in with at least one less pitcher."
Dalton Buckner collected one of Braden River's two hits -- a two-run homer to stand for Braden River's production until the bottom of the sixth inning. That's when Braden River loaded the bases on three walks, Buckner delivered a sacrifice fly to tie the game, and the go-ahead run came across on a wild pitch shortly thereafter.
Braden River's pitching trio of Buckner (70 percent strikes), Alen Bass and Kaleb Quinones only allowed three hits to West in a pitching-dominant game by both clubs.
Braden River is the last unbeaten team in the intermediate division and awaits the winner of Buffalo Creek and Manatee West at 11 a.m. Saturday Those two teams square off in the do-or-die contest at 6:30 p.m. Friday.
Buffalo Creek was paced by Trace Goforth (2-for-4), Hunter Folz (3-for-4, double) and Dylan Nealey (double) in its loser's bracket victory over Manatee National.
National got two home runs from Benjamin Dumas, but was eliminated.
Lakewood Ranch edged Manatee West 10-7 to move to Friday's winner's bracket final against Buffalo Creek.
Ranch's Tobias Davis (3-for-3, two runs) and Austin Parcells (3-for-4, triple, two runs) led the offense, while West's Thomas Zinna had two hits.
Braden River kept itself alive by blanking Manatee National 16-0 in a game halted by the mercy rule after the fourth inning. Mathew Vest (home run) highlighted a 12-run third inning for Braden River, which eliminated National. Braden River heads to another elimination game at 6:30 p.m. Friday, when it faces Manatee West.