August 17 - There apparently is no stage too big for South Riding’s young celebrities.
Brady Yates hit a two-run fifth-inning homer and that proved to be all the support Loudoun South American’s pitching staff would need as Justin Lee, Liam Thyen and Chase Obstgarten combined on a no-hitter in a 3-0 win over Barrington, R.I., yesterday at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA.
The no-hitter was the 52nd in World Series history, and the victory was the first in 9,124 days by a team from Virginia at the world’s most-famous youth baseball tournament.
The Southeast Region champions will put their 17-game winning streak on the line tomorrow at 11 a.m. against Coon Rapids, MN, the champions from the Midwest Region who earned a 2-1 win over Bowling Green, KY yesterday. Each game at the World Series is broadcast on the ESPN family of networks.
“It was kind of a dogfight there until the later innings,” Loudoun South American manager Alan Bowden said. “Everytime we hit the ball hard, it seemed to be right at them or they made a great play, so we had to keep battling.”
Things didn’t start like Bowden would have liked, as Loudoun South American stranded runners in each of the first four innings against Barrington starter Alex Anderson. It would be pinch hitter Kian Henson who finally got things started when he reached with a one-out single in the fifth. Two batters later, Yates drove Anderson’s first offering over the right-field fence to bring most of the announced crowd of 7,863 to its feet.
“When I hit that, I knew it was gone,” said Yates, who has hit eight homers during the team’s run. “It was a good feeling hitting the home run and taking the lead.”
Added Bowden: “When Kian Henson got that hit and we got back around to Brady, and Brady had that great at-bat, I think we loosened up a little bit.”
Lee and Colton Hicks followed with singles, and Thyen’s RBI single chased Anderson and provided the final margin.
Bowden and his staff continue to work their magic managing the team’s pitchers, even if it came with some risk yesterday. By relieving Lee and Thyen once they reached 35 pitches, both are eligible to throw tomorrow. Had they lost, neither would have been able to pitch in what would have been an elimination game today.
“Obviously, it was a tough decision whether or not to pull Justin,” Bowden said. “I wanted to have that option of Justin this weekend, and of course then we pulled Liam. But that goes to the confidence the coaching staff has in the guys behind them on the mound.
“Liam and Justin definitely pitched really well today. They moved the ball around location-wise, they moved the ball up-and-down to change eye-levels and they kept them off-balance I think with changing speeds.”
Lee and Thyen each went 2.2 innings, and Obstgarten got the final two outs to earn the save. The three hurlers allowed just one base runner to reach second base. Thyen struck out the first four and six of the eight batters he faced, and the left-hander now has 37 strikeouts to just seven walks in 29.1 innings.
Notes: Yates and Lee each had two of Loudoun South American’s nine hits … The coaching staff has given the team the day off to watch other games and spend time with their families … The last win in Williamsport by a team from Virginia had been on Aug. 23, 1994, when Central Springfield beat Minnesota’s Brooklyn Center, 4-1. Central Springfield went 2-2 at the World Series that year, falling to Northridge, CA in the semifinals … A charter bus from South Riding to Williamsport will bring more fans to add to the many who have already made the 3.5-hour trip to support the team at tomorrow’s game.
Photo by Krystal Culpepper