By TYLER KING
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — For the second straight day, a line drive found the glove of Louisiana shortstop Stan Wiltz and a dogpile ensued in the infield at Lamade Stadium. Stan was fine with all that.
Nothing seemed to go wrong for the boys from River Ridge over the last week at the Little League World Series, and Stan’s catch ended the game and the tournament Sunday, with Louisiana shutting out Curacao 8-0 to win the state’s first LLWS title.
“It felt like my glove was a magnet,” said Stan, who got his team into the championship on Saturday with a game-ending unassisted double play against Hawaii.
The team from suburban New Orleans fought its way back through the losers’ bracket after dropping its opening game of the tournament to Hawaii. Louisiana won six games in eight days, becoming the first team to win the LLWS after dropping its first game since the tournament expanded in 2001.
“People from New Orleans and Louisiana in general are very resilient type of people,” manager Scott Frazier said. “And this team exemplifies the resiliency that we have from the area that we come from.”
Frazier said he felt the momentum shift for his team when it won its first game of the tournament against Oregon. That win set the club up for victories over some of the tournament’s best teams — New Jersey, Virginia, Hawaii and Curacao.
“Once we won that game (against Oregon), it was just a matter of getting on a roll,” Frazier said.
Pitcher Egan Prather tossed a two-hit shutout Sunday, throwing 88 pitches over six innings. His performance in the championship caps off a solid tournament on the mound in which he picked up two victories and struck out 19 batters in 14 1/3 innings.
“It makes my job really easy to mix it up pitches when they can execute the pitches,” Frazier said. “Everything worked for him today.”
The offensive breakthrough came in the fifth inning for Louisiana as the club representing the Southwest region scored four runs on four hits to seize control. Reece Roussel smacked an RBI double that was followed by Marshall Louque’s RBI single, his third hit of the day.
“We were going to get those guys, it was just a matter of time,” Frazier said. “We’ve been so locked in this whole time.”
Curacao, representing the Caribbean region, threatened in the top of the third.
The team from Willemstad loaded the bases with one out. But a sharp ground ball to Marshall at third base resulted in a force-out at the plate and a few pitches later, Jurdrick Profar, the youngest brother of Oakland A’s infielder Jurickson Profar, was thrown out trying to score on a wild pitch.
“Once I got that out, I knew I was settled in,” Egan said.
With Louisiana’s victory, U.S. teams have won back-to-back Little League crowns for the first time since 2009, when a team from Chula Vista, California, capped off a streak of five straight championships for the United States.
“I can’t process it,” Frazier said. “This tournament started with approximately 7,700 teams, and here we are with the best out of everybody. It’s just surreal.”
The Louisiana duo of Reece and Marshall slugged their way into the LLWS record book Sunday. Each smacked a pair doubles to finish with seven for the tournament and set a record. Reece also added to the LLWS hits record he broke Saturday, finishing with 17. The previous mark was 14.
Home plate umpire Kelly Elliott Dine became just the second woman to call balls and strikes for a Little League title game. She is the sixth woman to umpire at the LLWS in the tournament’s 73-year history.
JAPAN TAKES THIRD
Before the Little Leaguers from Chofu, Japan, even made an out against Hawaii, they had already supplied enough run support to back a stellar outing from Yuto Misaki on the mound. Japan scored three runs in the first and two in the fifth on its way to a 5-0 victory in the LLWS third-place game. Misaki tossed five shutout innings, striking out 10 on his way to the win.
Tyler King is a journalism student at Penn State University.