August 4 - A year after Georgia’s Peachtree City beat them in the championship game, Loudoun South American will get an opportunity for some revenge in a nationally-televised semifinal tomorrow night at the Little League Southeast Regionals in Warner Robins, GA.
Loudoun South American won its 14th straight game yesterday afternoon, overcoming an early deficit to beat Northwood (S.C.), 12-3, and advance to tomorrow’s semifinal contest at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
Yesterday’s win didn’t begin as manager Alan Bowden would have hoped, as an error and two hits enabled Northwood to take a 3-0 first-inning lead on starter Liam Thyen. Loudoun South American quickly responded, with Justin Lee’s two-run homer highlighting a three-run bottom of the first and Bowden’s club scoring five in the third and four in the fourth to put the game away.
“I told the kids [in the first inning], I said, ‘Hey, we haven’t hit yet and three runs isn’t going to beat us. Let’s focus and bear down’,” Bowden said. “Justin’s two-run bomb, that really got us back on track.”
Lee went 3-for-3 with four RBI and added a solo homer in the third. He’s 5-for-5 with three walks and six RBI in the two tournament games and is hitting .674 (.31-for-46) with 11 home runs and 33 RBI over his 14-game hitting streak. “He’s just so dialed in, he’s really feeling it right now,” Bowden said. “He’s getting better and better with his discipline at the plate and it’s really paying off.”
Loudoun South has had at least nine players with base hits in both games, and yesterday got run-scoring hits from Brett Triplett and Noah Culpepper off the bench. Colton Hicks and Kian Henson each added two hits and combined to drive in three runs.
Thyen, meanwhile, recovered from the slow start and pitched into the fourth to earn the win before relievers Chase Obstgarten and Brady Yates closed the game out. The three hurlers combined to limit the South Carolina state champions to four hits while striking out 10, and Yates fanned the side in the sixth.
“Thyen did a really good job on the mound, and our defense just keeps us in every game,” Bowden said. “I was really proud with how the boys responded.”
Peachtree City shut out Loudoun South American, 3-0, in the final last August to advance to the World Series in Williamsport, PA. It’ll be a different cast of characters this time - Loudoun South American’s roster has turned completely over from the team then-manager Sean Lizama skippered last summer - but the opportunity to avenge the loss won’t be lost on Bowden and his team.
“We got beat two times by them last year,” the manager said. “They’re a fantastic team … they put the ball in play, hit it hard. We’re going to have to play incredibly good defense.”
Tomorrow’s winner will advance to the championship game on Wednesday, with the loser dropping to the loser’s bracket semifinal on Tuesday.
Notes: Loudoun South American is hitting .418 with 19 hits through its first two games … Two teams, Wilson City (N.C.) and Huntsville (AL) American, have been eliminated. The four 1-1 teams playing in loser’s bracket games today are Viera/Suntree (FL), Northwood (S.C.), Goodlettsville (TN) and Hurricane (W.V.) … Bowden said Obstgarten, Yates or the 11-year-old Hicks - the youngest player on the team - could start tomorrow night. Yates’ older brother, Chad, struck out seven while allowing three runs in 4.2 innings in last year’s regional final against Peachtree City … Bowden said his club would practice late this morning, then would have a team lunch before watching one of the games at the stadium. Tomorrow, they’ll be taking photos and doing interviews at 2:30 p.m. with the ESPN crew as the network prepares for its broadcast.
Photo by Krystal Culpepper