July 25 - Justin Lee tossed a complete game with eight strikeouts and went 2-for-4 with three runs and an RBI to lead Loudoun South American past Fairfax National, 6-2, in the Little League state championship game yesterday in Abingdon.
Lee carried a no-hitter into the fourth inning, then after surrendering a two-run homer to Fairfax National’s Ryker Hansen, the right-hander recovered to retire seven of the final eight batters he faced. Brady Yates had three hits and Colton Hicks added two as the Loudoun team became the first to repeat as state champions since Tuckahoe American in 2013-14.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this group of kids,” manager Alan Bowden said. “It’s been a total team effort, which makes it a lot of fun. Every kid on the team has done something to put us in this position.”
His team will now begin preparations for the Southeast Regional Tournament, which begins on Aug. 2 in Warner Robins, GA. Bowden’s club will begin the double-elimination tournament at 1 p.m. that day against Wilson City, the North Carolina state champions.
Loudoun South American has a different cast this summer, carrying a completely new roster than the one manager Sean Lizama led to the Southeast Regional final last year. This version is led by Bowden and assistants Brian Triplett and Keith Yates. Joining Lee, Yates and Hicks on the state champions are Michael Bowden, Matthew Coleman, Noah Culpepper, Brody Harris, Kiam Henson, Chase Obstgarten, Joe Ross, Liam Thyen, Brett Triplett and Chase Triplett.
Many of the players were on the Loudoun South American team that won the 10-11 year-old state title last summer. Like that team, this year’s group had to go through the loser’s bracket en route to the District 16 title.
After beating a talented Loudoun South National team twice to win the district last week, Bowden’s club outscored three pool play opponents, 48-0, to begin the state tournament. Loudoun South American then beat McLean American, 8-0, for its sixth straight shutout in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.
Yesterday morning, Thyen hit a game-tying single in the top of the sixth to send the semifinal contest with Cave Spring into extra innings. Obstgarten, who led off the game with a homer and singled in a run in the second, would steal home in the top of the seventh to give Loudoun South American a 5-4 lead. Lee would then connect on a solo homer that proved to be the difference when Cave Spring answered with a solo homer of its own in the bottom half. Hicks then got the final three outs to preserve a 6-5 win.
Lee has paired with Thyen to anchor the staff, with the duo combining for for 50 strikeouts in 35 innings. “Those two are the linchpins of our pitching staff,” Bowden said. “[Lee has] really been coming into himself on the mound with his presence.”
Offensively, Bowden’s lineup has applied constant pressure on opposing pitchers to the tune of 12.2 runs per game and a total of 31 home runs through 14 games at the district and state tournaments. Lee paces the team in batting average (.587), home runs (10) and RBI (27), while leadoff man Obstgarten (.580, 9 HR, 26 RBI), Yates (.566, 7 HR, 25 RBI) and Hicks (.467, 4 HR, 17 RBI) are also posting big numbers at the plate.
“When you can get production with the back five [hitters] and turn that lineup over, it’s devastating for the opposition pitching staff,” Bowden said.
Fairfax National, the District 10 champions, also went 3-0 in pool play. Manager Mike Pritchard’s team then beat Tuckahoe, 3-2, in Tuesday’s quarterfinals and Fort Hunt, 4-3, on an extra-inning walk-off homer by Nate Hawton-Henley in the semifinals yesterday morning. Hawton-Henley had also homered earlier in the semifinal and earned a no-decision after pitching 6.1 innings.
Last year, Lizama led the Loudoun South American’s All-Stars to within a game of the Little League World Series before falling, 3-0, to Georgia's Peachtree City American. The last state champion from Virginia to advance through regionals and to Williamsport was Central Springfield in 1994.
Photo of Justin Lee by Kim Bowden
Note: State champions list views as table on desktop or if mobile device is flipped horizontally.
|2019||Loudoun South American|
|2018||Loudoun South American|
|2005||West Springfield American|
|2003||West Springfield American|
|1971||Bucknell (now Alexandria Potomac)|
|*Advanced to World Series|