Lee Extends No-Hit Streak, Thyen Drives in 5 as Loudoun South American Rolls

August 18 - Justin Lee kept Loudoun South American’s hitless streak alive and Liam Thyen drove in five runs as the Southeast Region champions cruised to an 11-0 win over Coon Rapids, MN in front of a crowd of 15,447 earlier today at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. 

Thyen hit a three-run double to get things started in the first inning, and Chase Obstgarten and Colton Hicks had RBI doubles during a five-run second to put the game away as Loudoun South American won its 18th straight game and advanced to the United States bracket semifinals on Wednesday night. 

Meanwhile, Lee looked sharp despite some back tightness and overpowered the Midwest Region champion’s lineup. He flashed a fastball that had some added velocity from his outing on Friday to go along with a dominant curveball. The right-hander struck out six, walked two and will be available once again on Wednesday as he entered the final batter under the 50-pitch threshold to be able to come back on two days of rest. 

“He was mixing up his speeds and he was throwing harder today than he was the other day,” said Loudoun South American manager Alan Bowden, who was assured by Lee before the game that the tightness wouldn’t affect him. “We said, ‘Are you sure? Because we’ve got other kids who can throw and we want you to be healthy out there’. He said, ‘I’ll be fine, I’m just a little tight and I’m going to work through it’. We were watching him in the first inning to make sure.”

Lee’s performance comes 48 hours after he went 2.2 innings and combined with Thyen and Obstgarten on a no-hitter in a 3-0 win over Barrington, R.I., the Northeast Region champions. He’s posted a 1.15 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 31.1 innings during the South Riding team’s run to this point.

“This week has been very fortunate for me,” Lee said. “Being here’s all great and throwing two no-hitters, being combined in one, it feels amazing.”

Added Bowden: “He had really good command of his curveball today, and depending on where we were in the lineup, we used it quite a bit and it worked really well. He was also spotting his pitches very well, he was hitting that outside corner with the curveball and the fastball.”

Obstgarten finished 2-for-2 with the RBI double and Hicks was 2-for-3 with three RBI. Loudoun South American’s first five batters - Obstgarten, Brady Yates, Lee, Hicks and Thyen - went a combined 7-for-9 with three walks and 10 RBI. 

Despite the back-to-back no-hit shutouts and long winning streak, Thyen said the team wasn’t looking past Wednesday’s game as it attempts to become the first team from Virginia to advance to the U.S. final since Richmond’s Tuckahoe in 1976. That was the first year the Little League World Series had the U.S. and international teams on different sides of the bracket.

“We take every game one step at a time and we don’t ever look ahead,” he said. “In this tournament, every single team is good and we don’t know if the team could be better than us. We always focus on that first game, the first inning and see what happens.”

Notable: Chase Triplett had a pinch-hit RBI single in the second … Loudoun South American pitchers haven’t allowed a run in 14 innings, dating to when Peachtree City, GA scored its lone two runs in a 12-2 win in the regional final … Lee was 1-for-2 with a walk. Since the beginning of the regional tournament, he has reached in 18 of 21 plate appearances, going 11-for-14 with seven walks over those six games … Loudoun South American has posted shutouts in nine of its 19 wins.

Quotable: “I’m really, really proud of the kids, the way they’ve executed … I have told them, ‘Look around, enjoy the moment and this is the biggest game of our life. But it’s still on the same field as you play on back at home at Lions Field. So look around, enjoy it, but when the first pitch is thrown, let’s get down to business’. And they’ve done a fantastic job of staying focused.” - Loudoun South American manager Alan Bowden

Next: Loudoun South American will play the winner of Elizabeth, N.J. and Wailuku, HI on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The winner of that game advances to the U.S. championship game on Saturday, with the World Series championship game on Sunday. 

Photos of Justin Lee, left, and Liam Thyen, right, by Joey Kamide

Combined No-Hitter, Yates’ Blast Powers Loudoun South in World Series Opener

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

On the Move: Several Area Division I Recruits Transfer Schools Over Summer

August 16 - As area students begin returning for fall semester classes, five who have committed to play Division I college baseball will be doing so at different schools.

Stafford coach Tommy Harrison confirmed this morning that outfielder Elijah Lambros, who helped the Indians win the VHSL Class 5 state championship in June, has transferred to Fredericksburg Christian School.

Stafford began classes on Monday.

Harrison has played a key role in the development and the recruiting process of Lambros, a first-team all-state selection this spring who last week committed to Virginia Tech. He drove to Georgia this summer to watch him play while with his Richmond Braves travel team, and earlier this week spoke glowingly of the rising junior in our story on his commitment

Fredericksburg Christian, a VISAA Division II program, reportedly has as many as a dozen transfers this year. The Eagles’ second-year coach, Jeff Petty, has built the EvoShield Canes into a national powerhouse on the travel and showcase circuit. 

Other Division I recruits confirmed as transferring are catcher Mason Balsis (Virginia) from Osbourn Park to Patriot and a trio of pitchers in left-handers Brandon Clarke (Alabama) and Bradley Gagen (Virginia) and right-hander Bryce Dolby (Virginia Tech) to Independence, Loudoun County’s newest school. Clarke is one of several players moving across town from Rock Ridge, while Gagen and Dolby are two of four Paul VI Catholic players who are transferring to the Ashburn school for their sophomore year. 

Rock Ridge is losing so many players to Independence that Phoenix coach Paul Koch is unsure his program will be able to field a junior varsity team in the spring.

Clarke and Lambros are rising juniors, while Balsis, Gagen and Dolby are rising sophomores. All told, over two dozen known Northern Virginia players with varsity experience - many who are on the radar of Division I coaches - are transferring for the 2019-20 school year.

Mary Washington Hires Westminster's Swiney as Next Coach

August 15 - Kelly Swiney, who spent the past two seasons as the head coach at Division III Westminster College, has been hired in the same capacity at Mary Washington. 

The interview process wrapped earlier this month and the school’s sports information office wrote via email this morning that Swiney’s hire would become official once his background check has been completed.

Swiney, who led Westminster to a 30-35 record in his two seasons at the New Wilmington, PA school, previously went 201-143 as the head coach from 2009-17 at Allegheny College in Meadville, PA. In 2013, his Allegheny team advanced to the North Coast Athletic Conference championship game. 

He has guided teams to winning campaigns in nine of his 11 seasons as a head coach. 

Mary Washington went 15-22 overall and 7-14 in the Capital Athletic Conference this spring in the final season under Wayne Riser, who was 147-117-1 in his seven years at the Fredericksburg school. Riser led the Eagles to five winning campaigns and appearances in the national Top 25 poll during the 2015 and 2016 seasons. 

Swiney becomes the third coach in program history.

Tom Sheridan led Mary Washington to a 579-275-4 record and 11 NCAA Tournament appearances in his 25 seasons from 1988-2012. The Eagles have averaged 22.7 victories and have a .646 winning percentage in the program’s 32 seasons. 

Photo of Kelly Swiney courtesy of Westminster Athletics

‘Everything a Coach is Looking For in a Player’, Dooley’s Impact Felt on Multiple Teams

August 14 - Ryan Dooley’s impact was never more evident then after he was hit by a pitch against Centreville on Mar. 30. 

He was hitting .571 at the time and South Lakes was off to a 5-0 start. Over the next five weeks, Dooley played through the hand injury, a nagging pulled oblique muscle and missed a game over spring break after spraining his finger while sliding headfirst into second base. He hit just .206 and the Seahawks dropped 10 of 14 games while he was battling the ailments. 

By May 7, Dooley was fully recovered and got hot again. He strung together five straight multi-hit games and hit .667 as the Seahawks won three of four before dropping a 7-6 extra-inning decision at Patriot in the Region 6D quarterfinals. He’d hit .397 with 25 hits and a .531 on-base percentage for the season, earning second-team all-region honors. 

He hasn’t stopped hitting since. 

Dooley, a left-handed swinging rising senior who has committed to play at the Virginia Military Institute, joined his Marucci Stars team in early June and hit .367 with a .557 on-base percentage while playing in showcase events and tournaments up and down the east coast. He took a weekend off in mid-July to help the North team win Gold at the Commonwealth Games, then suited up full-time for Vienna Post 180 - who he’d played part-time with throughout the summer - during its run to a second straight state championship. 

“Ryan is a dude,” said Kevin Sisk, his coach with the Stars. “His athleticism to play multiple positions this summer was huge for our team. More than this is his ability to compete and his high baseball IQ. At the plate, running the bases, or defense he is a bulldog and battles till the end. 

“He is everything a coach is looking for in a player. A winner.”

Dooley, who has played both middle infield positions and all three outfield positions and even pitched a bit during the American Legion campaign, settled in at second base the past few weeks as Post 180 strung together perhaps the best season in the storied program’s long history. He hit .408 with 29 hits in 20 games and was one of the toughest outs last week at the Mid-Atlantic Regional, going 13-for-23 over six games as Vienna advanced to within a game of its first World Series berth. 

“He really made a difference with his athleticism,” Post 180 manager Nick Good said. “He’s extremely versatile, he can really play anywhere in the field. He was a great fit at the top of the lineup.

“He’s willing to lay down a bunt, sacrifice guys over and do what is good for the team as a whole.”

Dooley says that selfless approach and mentality is a product of often being the youngest player early on. “When I was younger, I played with older guys and wasn’t as good as them,” he said. “So I had to do what I could to help the team. And that was fine to me, that was growing up and that was just how you played the game. That was what you had to do.”

He’s no longer the young guy on the team who has to lay down bunts and move runners over to earn a spot in the lineup - he hit .383 in 270 plate appearances with the four teams this spring and summer - and yet it remains a big part of Dooley’s game. 

That mentality and work ethic, he says, was instilled at a young age by his father, Sean, and while playing for Madison coach Mark ‘Pudge’ Gjormand with the Reston Warriors youth program. It grew while playing alongside his older brother, Jack, an all-region shortstop himself two years ago, and for South Lakes coach Morgan Spencer, who has quickly rebuilt the Seahawks program. 

“He was always the better Dooley,” he says of his older brother. “He was always the best player on every team we played together, so I wanted to be like him. He and my dad showed me what it was like to work hard.”

That fire has only grown, as evidenced while playing through the ailments this spring and then the heavy workload this summer. 

“I embrace it because I love the game, I love competing and I love winning,” Dooley said. “I love playing with my teammates and I love working hard. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Photos of Ryan Dooley were submitted and taken by Joey Kamide

Vienna Post 180’s World Series Bid Falls Short at Mid-Atlantic Regional

August 12 - Vienna Post 180 came up just short of earning its first American Legion World Series berth. 

The Virginia state champions entered the day riding a 16-game winning streak, averaging 11.9 runs per game this summer and needing one victory over the host team, Randolph County (N.C.) Post 45, to claim the double-elimination Mid-Atlantic Regional. Post 180’s bats, however, fell silent as it dropped 3-0 and 3-2 decisions at McCrary Park in Asheboro, N.C. 

The losses end a record-breaking season for Vienna (36-4), which repeated as state champions and set a single-season mark for victories. Randolph County (36-10) qualifies for the World Series for the third straight year.

“This week we hit well up until the championship,” said Vienna’s second baseman, Ryan Dooley, a rising senior at South Lakes who has committed to play at the Virginia Military Institute. “We had a good amount of hard-hit outs because Randolph had a shift on almost every batter and it worked in big situations. When we had opportunities to score runs, we didn’t execute the way we usually do.”

Added Eric Lingebach, an Oakton grad who is transferring in to play at Christopher Newport. “It didn’t end how we would have liked. But, all-in-all, [the season] was a huge success.”

In yesterday’s first game, Post 45 left-hander Trevor Marsh used a variety of off-speed pitches to keep Post 180 hitters off balance. 

An incoming freshman outfielder at UNC Wilmington, Marsh needed just 71 pitches in a two-hit shutout, the first time in 92 games that Vienna had been held scoreless. He retired 14 straight after Allen Yager (Oakton) led off the bottom of the first with a single, then set down the final seven Post 180 hitters after a two-out fifth-inning single by Jimmy Clark (Paul VI Catholic). The soft-throwing southpaw induced 14 fly ball outs. 

L.A. Rice (Flint Hill) took the loss, surrendering three runs (two earned) on six hits in five innings. Lingebach struck out three with three walks in two scoreless innings. 

With the regional championship down to a winner-take-all scenario in the playback game, Vienna was held scoreless by Randolph County’s Braxton Davis through the first three frames. Post 45 rallied for three runs in the fourth inning after reliever Zach Perkins threw what looked to be an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play into center field. The miscue would prove costly. 

In the bottom of the fourth, Dooley singled and Avery Neaves (South Lakes) later drove him in with a sacrifice fly. Vienna then drew closer when Luke Erdmann (Madison) scored Neaves on a ground out in the sixth. They’d threaten again in the seventh when Yager and Dooley reached on singles, but reliever Tatum Marsh got Lingebach to ground out and fanned Neaves looking to end the game. 

Perkins took the loss after allowing three runs (two earned) in three innings of relief work. Post 180 starter Shane Stiehl (South Lakes) pitched two scoreless frames but was relieved after walking the first two batters in the third. Justin Taylor (Flint Hill) pitched the final two innings. 

“Going down to a regional and competing against other state champions was a blast,” said Taylor, a rising Cornell sophomore who struck out eight in four scoreless innings over his three relief outings at the tournament. “Almost every other team had some history of being in the [World Series], so we were a bit overlooked. So it was fun to go out and shock some teams by winning our first four games.”

Notable: Dooley was 3-for-4 in yesterday’s second game and finished 13-for-23 (.565) for the week. He hit .408 with 29 hits in 20 games, most coming after completing his summer campaign with his Marucci Stars travel team … Neaves, one of the hottest hitters over the first four days at the tournament, went 0-for-6 yesterday. He finished the week 8-for-19 and hit .429 with 42 hits, 10 home runs, 45 RBI and a post-record 18 doubles this summer … Lingebach had a quiet week - going 4-for-18 over the six games - after posting big numbers through the regular season. He finished the season hitting .365 with team highs in hits (46), homers (16) and RBI (63), which set a new single-season post record … Perkins and Yager also topped the 40-hit mark. Perkins hit .404 with 12 doubles, four homers and 38 RBI and Yager hit .366 with 10 doubles and 23 RBI.

Quotable: It’s always fun to be apart of something like this when guys from different schools or even rival schools can come together to win ball games and have fun doing it … These guys on the team were dedicated to the grind and dedicated to being there for one another. I believe that’s what separates Post 180 from other Legion teams in our district and in our state.” - Vienna Post 180’s Justin Taylor

Next: Randolph County begin play in the World Series on Thursday in Shelby, N.C. against Shrewsbury (MA) Post 397, the Northeast Region champion. Vienna’s season is complete. 

Photos of, clockwise from top left, Allen Yager, Justin Taylor and Ryan Dooley by Joey Kamide

Richards, Taylor Provide Lift, Post 180 Plays for Mid-Atlantic Region Title Today

August 11 - Seth Richards and Justin Taylor had to join their Vienna Post 180 teammates late this week at the American Legion Mid-Atlantic Regional in Asheboro, N.C., and the late arrivals didn’t waste any time leaving their mark. 

Richards, the recent Oakton graduate who had to take a final for his calculus class earlier this week as a precursor to his freshman year at Villanova, tossed 5.2 innings and limited Brooklawn (N.C.) Post 72 to two runs on four hits over 5.2 innings in a 6-2 win last night at McCrary Park. 

The left-hander admitted to not having command of his off-speed pitches - he walked five - but rolled double-play balls in the second and fourth and got two batters to pop out to work out of a bases-loaded jam in the third. It was his fourth win of the summer. 

“I had a little problem early, I couldn’t get it across for strike,” Richards said. “But I just had to keep pumping the zone and trying my best.”

Added his manager, Nick Good: “He’s a competitor. He was a little bit around the plate, and I think maybe he was a little bit amped up. But he made some pitches when he needed to.”

After reaching the 105-pitch limit with two outs in the sixth, Richards was relieved by Taylor. The Flint Hill grad has been recovering from a torn rotator cuff in his non-throwing shoulder suffered during his freshman season at Cornell, and he had to finish an internship obligation before joining Post 180 this week. After issuing a bases-loaded walk, Taylor recovered to strike out Jake McNellis on three pitches, then fanned this side in the seventh. 

Since joining the team on Friday, Taylor has recorded six strikeouts in two innings over his two relief outings and is 2-for-5 with three runs, two walks, a sacrifice bunt, and also reached when he was hit by a pitch.

“We were fortunate enough to get Justin back,” Good said. “We’ve been patient with bringing him back and healed up and this is what he does. He loves the competition.”

The two pitchers limited Brooklawn’s top two hitters, McNellis and Nick Nocella, to one hit in six at-bats. They had entered with nine hits, five walks and nine RBI between them in the first three tournament games. 

With its 16th consecutive win, Vienna (36-2) drew to within a victory of its first-ever appearance in the American Legion World Series. They will play the tournament host, Randolph County (N.C.) Post 45, today at 1:30 p.m., with a playback game to follow should the two-time reigning Virginia champions drop the first contest. Randolph County (34-10), previously a member of the Southeast Region, has advanced to the past two World Series. 

Ryan Dooley (South Lakes) remained scorching hot at the tournament, going 2-for-4 with two runs. The Virginia Military Institute recruit is 10-for-16 and has scored 10 runs in the four games. Luke Erdmann (Madison) added two hits and Eric Lingebach (Oakton) reached three times on two walks and a single. 

“We’re pretty pumped up,” Richards said of the opportunity to advance to next week’s World Series in Shelby, N.C. “We’re excited to get after it tomorrow with a big crowd against the home team.”

Notable: Zach Perkins (Madison), who tweaked his hamstring the previous night, had a pinch-hit RBI sacrifice fly during a three-run fifth inning … Avery Neaves (South Lakes) doubled and scored in the first inning and is 8-for-13 with three doubles, a home run and 11 RBI in the tournament … Brooklawn (32-11) is one of the country’s most-accomplished programs with 30 state titles since 1954.

Quotable: “It’s been a lot of [physical therapy] all summer, and I’ve just been doing what I can to make a full recovery. This is part of my preparation for the fall. I’m doing what I can do to help out, and these guys are picking us up too.” - Post 180’s Justin Taylor, on his return from a left rotator cuff injury suffered in the spring.

Next: Vienna plays Randolph County for the region championship at 1:30 p.m. today, with a playback game to follow if necessary. 

Photo of Seth Richards by Joey Kamide

Michigan's Bakich, Whose 2-Strike Message Helped Inspire LLWS Run, Wishes Loudoun South Luck

August 10 - The Loudoun South American players and coaches received a surprise message on the eve of their departure to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. 

Michigan coach Erik Bakich, whose ‘team at-bat’ approach with two strikes has helped inspire the South Riding’s postseason run, heard his message had reached the team and placed a video call to them after last night’s practice. 

“Congratulations, you’re going to the World Series!” said Bakich, who in June led the Wolverines to within a win of their first national championship since 1962. “I’m really excited for you guys and I can’t thank you enough for your support during our run to the College World Series and just know that Michigan baseball is behind you guys at the Little League World Series.

“We’re excited for you and I couldn’t be more pumped to be in your corner and cheering you on.”

Bakich’s message to the 11- and 12-year-olds, who comprise Virginia’s first team to advance to the LLWS since 1994, was to capture the moment and continue to have fun.

“I’ll tell you the same thing I told our team, the best thing you can do is go out there while you’re in Williamsport and enjoy every minute of it,” Bakich said. “I would guess that you got to this point by having a ton of fun and with smiles on your faces, being aggressive, taking chances out on that field, and just being tough. 

“There’s no way you made it this far without being aggressive and tough, so go out there and do those two things. But make sure you play this game with a big gigantic smile on your face.”

Wolverines’ 2-Strike Approach During CWS Run Helps Key Loudoun South's Success

August 10 - In late June, during the College World Series, Loudoun South American assistant coach Keith Yates read an article that he thought manager Alan Bowden might enjoy sharing with the team.

The article, written by Aaron Fitt of D1Baseball.com, highlighted the two-strike approach that had helped Michigan push Vanderbilt to a decisive third game in their CWS championship series. The Wolverines led the eight teams in Omaha in batting average, walks and on-base percentage behind coach Erik Bakich’s philosophy that his players take a selfless approach once a count reached two strikes.

“We shrink the zone with less than two strikes. We look for pitches to smash,” Bakich told D1Baseball.com. “And understanding that having the discipline to try to shrink the zone and just go after those pitches you can hit the hardest with less than two strikes is going to put you in good hitters’ counts. 

“And when you do have two strikes, we talk about it becoming a team at-bat. It’s no longer your at-bat, it’s a team at-bat, and your job is to get in there and be as gritty as you possibly can and fight to win the next pitch and see another pitch.”

Bowden loved it, and he asked his parents to print the story for the players and to have them review for the next practice. 

“We asked them to have the kids circle and highlight things that they felt were important and told them we were going to focus on this at our next practice,” Bowden said. “We asked them what their favorite thing was about the article.”

His players, many with a baseball acumen well-beyond their age, quickly bought in. 

“What we really took away from it was that we’re an aggressive-hitting team, but once you get two strikes, it is no longer your at-bat, it’s a team at-bat,” Bowden said. “Put pressure on the defense, put the ball in play and let’s move kids over and do something to help the team.

“We have stuck to that mantra since the District 16 Tournament. As coaches, we continue to learn and I studied and learned that from the Michigan coach. It’s continued to help our team.”

Loudoun South American has fielded an offensive monster this summer, featuring a deep lineup that has keyed its 16-game winning streak. Earlier this week, they won the Southeast Region championship to become Virginia’s first team to advance to the Little League World Series since Central Springfield in 1994. 

Much like during Michigan’s postseason run, the South Riding team has flourished at extending at-bats, getting runners on base and moving them over. The last five batters in the order have drawn 56 of the team’s 86 walks, helping flip the lineup over to Loudoun South American’s fearsome foursome of Chase Obstgarten, Brady Yates, Justin Lee and Colton Hicks. Those four have combined to drive in 105 runs, including 32 by leadoff man Obstgarten. 

“It’s been fun to watch the way they approach their at-bats, and we have all the way through the regional tournament,” said Bowden, whose club is hitting .419 with a .520 on-base percentage in its 18 games. “If they get to two strikes, you’ll hear [first base coach Brian Triplett] or myself holler at the kids, ‘It’s a team at-bat now’.”

That message mirrors the one Bakich delivered to his team while the Wolverines made their third NCAA Tournament since he came over from Maryland in 2013. It was the Big Ten Conference program’s first CWS appearance since 1984.

“Coach [Bakich] said there’s only two counts: there’s non-two-strike counts and then there’s two-strike counts,” Michigan’s Joe Donovan told D1Baseball.com. “If you’re in a non-two-strike count then you just look for a pitch that you can smash And if you are [in a two-strike count], you just try to fight off as many as possible.”

‘Smash’ is how one might describe the top of Loudoun South American’s lineup: Obstgarten (.508, 10 HR, 32 RBI), Yates (.515, 7 HR, 25 RBI), Lee (.607, 15 HR, 36 RBI) and Hicks (.450, 5 HR, 22 RBI) have piled up gaudy numbers. But Bowden has given as much credit to his team’s other hitters, who have constantly set the table and come up with several big hits of their own. 

And he maintains his team’s success has come at least in part from adopting Bakich’s message.

“Our team has been totally focused on what he said and my kids picked up on that and ran with that,” Bowden said. “It’s crazy where you find different things to talk about and different things you can use to motivate.”

Photo of Michigan players, at left, via Associated Press and of Loudoun South American players, right, by Krystal Culpepper

Neaves Powers Post 180’s 2-0 Start at Mid-Atlantic Regionals

August 9 - Avery Neaves continues to come up clutch as Vienna Post 180 has continued its unbeaten playoff run by winning its first two games at the American Legion Mid-Atlantic Regional in Asheboro, N.C.

Neaves, a graduate of South Lakes entering his sophomore year at St. Johns River State College in Florida, broke a fifth-inning tie with a three-run double in Post 180’s 6-2 win last night over Randolph County (N.C.) Post 45. His bases-clearing blast off the left-center field wall at McCrary Park came a day after the catcher hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly and later scored the winning run in an 8-7 win over Brooklawn (N.J.) Post 72. 

Neaves is 4-for-5 with three doubles and seven RBI over the two games at the double-elimination tournament and is hitting .452 with nine homers and 40 RBI in 25 games. He’s hit a post-record 18 doubles. 

Vienna (34-2) has won 14 straight and will play Morgantown (W.V.) Post 2 (35-8) tonight at 7:30 p.m. 

Last night, Braden Huebsch (South Lakes) earned the decision after striking out seven and walking one in 6.1 innings. The right-hander, who went the distance in Saturday’s state championship game in Lynchburg, scattered nine hits and twice worked out of bases-loaded jams. On both occasions, he retired UNC Wilmington recruit Trevor Marsh to end the threat. 

The game was played in front of an estimated crowd of 500, most on hand to cheer for the tournament’s hosts. Randolph County (33-10) has advanced to the World Series the past two years. 

“Randolph County is no joke as a host team,” Vienna manager Nick Good said. “They are a very good team.”

Justin Taylor (Flint Hill), who had missed over two weeks while recovering from a shoulder injury, rejoined the team yesterday and came on in relief with one out in the seventh. After Randolph County loaded the bases, Taylor struck out the final two batters. The rising Cornell sophomore was also 1-for-3.  

In Wednesday’s win, Zach Perkins (Madison) pitched the final 3.2 innings to earn the decision. He got an assist from his defense when third baseman L.A. Rice (Flint Hill), with the tying run at second base, made a diving stop of a hard ground ball and threw out the base runner to end the game. 

Perkins’ relief outing came after Brooklawn reached reliever Chris Blake (Madison) for three runs (two earned) to tie the game at 6-6 in the fourth. Rice started and allowed three runs (two earned) in three innings. Perkins and Virginia Military Institute recruit Ryan Dooley (South Lakes) each had three hits to pace Post 180’s 12-hit attack. 

Notes: Good wasn’t sure who would start tonight’s game, but said it was likely multiple pitchers would be used out of the bullpen. Left-hander Seth Richards (Oakton), who will pitch at Villanova next spring, will get the ball tomorrow … Vienna is without first baseman and left-hander Josh Gjormand (Madison), who is on a family vacation but would return should the team advance to next week’s World Series … In today’s elimination games, Brooklawn plays Wilmington (N.C.) Post 10 at 12 p.m. and Randolph County plays Canal (DE) Post 25 at 4:30 p.m. Hamburg (N.Y.) Post 527 and Funkstown (MD) Post 211 have been eliminated. 

Photo of Avery Neaves by Jane Davis