How Lafayette Little League charged to World Series after player took fastball to the face

Tim Buckley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Landon Granger wore his shiner like a badge of honor.

But when the Lafayette Little League utility player took a fastball to his right eye during  his team's opening game against Texas West atthe Little League World Series Southwest Regional in Waco, Texas, he was worried.

“Never saw it coming. It just happened,” Granger said. “Right after, I was scared I might never be able to get in the box again.”


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“This kid was probably throwing, 71 (mph), 72, somewhere around there,” Lafayette manager Steven Menard said.

The errant throw was an accident. 

“Fastball up," Menard said. "He had multiple fractures of his eye socket.”

He had a bloody nose, too, but fortunately no concussion.

Uncertain of the injury’s extent, however, teammates were terrified.

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“From our angle … we thought he got hit in the helmet,” center fielder Cooper Hawkins said.

“Then the second we realized he got hit in the face, we all tried to run out the dugout, but the person standing (there) said we had to stay … and keep calm. We were all kind of like, ‘What just happened?’ ”

All Granger’s buddies could do was try to win for their pal.

It worked.

Lafayette opens play Friday (4 p.m. CT, ESPN) against Midwest Region runner-up South Dakota at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

“Once I realized … this was serious I got a little nervous,” outfielder Dylan Menard said.

“But I knew we were going to do it for him. All 13 kids on this team, we’re brothers. We’re family. And I know if one brother goes down you’ve got to deal with 12 other ones.”

'We knew he was in the hospital'

Lafayette defeated Texas West, 6-1, as Granger received medical treatment.

“You get to Regionals, you win that first game, you should be super excited,” Steven Menard said. “Everybody should be super pumped because you’re sitting in the driver’s seat.

“But after the game it was a kind of a weird feeling, because we knew he was in the hospital.”

Granger was hurting, but also confident teammates would persevere.

Lafayette Little League player Landon Granger took a fastball to the face, but that did not stop him from getting to the Little League World Series.

“They got mad after I got hit,” he said, “so they … started snapping.”

“Of course we had something to play for at the beginning of the game … but now we had another reason,” Hawkins added. “It’s to play for him, and beat this team for him.”

The tournament had just begun, yet Granger had no doubt Lafayette would reach the  LLWS for the first time since 2011.

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The bigger question was whether he would make it there, too.

“After I went to the hospital,” Granger said, “I was worried.

“Because I knew we were going to Williamsport. So I was worried if I would be able to fly and I was worried if I was able to play.”

Two days after Granger got hurt, Lafayette beat Texas East, 6-0. Two nights later it beat Colorado, 11-0, to clinch the LLWS berth. And two nights after that, on Aug. 10, it took down Texas West again, winning 6-2 to claim the region championship – with Granger in the lineup.

He stepped back into the batting box and took a walk, lifting not only his spirits but his 11- and 12-year-old teammates.

“To get him back … once he was cleared by the doctors … it helped out a lot,” said Steven Menard, the manager.

“They (Lafayette’s players) knew he was good. They knew he probably wouldn’t get to play much, but they knew he was going to be with us for the rest of the trip so that kind of helped out with it.”

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'We've got your back'

Granger, primarily a second baseman, wasn’t just permitted to play again, though.

He was also allowed to fly.

“I was positive from the beginning we were going to win this all,” Dylan Menard said. “I know his big dream, just like everyone else’s, was to make it to Williamsport.

“So we all knew we had to push forward to make it to Williamsport, for him to be on the plane here.”

As he recovered, Granger heard comments from teammates like, “We got your back,” “We’ll hang with you,” “We’ve got this for you” and “We’re a team.”

The encouragement helped.

“It was so happy,” Granger said after getting to Williamsport.

“It’s been amazing. I was just glad to be with my teammates going over here, and have a dream we all have been working for.”