By Arnie Leshin
There was no doubt.
It was all Southwest Region champion Louisianaemerging as also the Little League Baseball World Series champions.
From an opening loss, the youngsters from River Edge and the Eastbank LL won its last six games, capping it off by dominating Caribbean Region champions from Willemstad Curaco, 8-0, in Williamsport, Pa., Sunday afternoon.
It was no contest as right-hander Edgar Prather pitched the route, striking out seven, walking two, and allowing but 2 hits. He threw 88 pitches, three over the limit when he got Curaco’s best hitter, Curley Martha to line out to shortstop Stan Wiltz. This, after Martha fouled off 10 pitches.
The gloves were tossed into the air and the dog-pile followed on the mound. It was a true team effort, much like it was in the team’s final six starts, outscoring the opposition, 44-12, getting a World Series record 17 hits from Reece Roussel, and with everybody on the roster contributing to its 74 overall hits.
Only two home runs, that by Marshall Louque in the United States championship win over previously undefeated West Region champion Hawaii, which also swept its region, and the other by record-holder Reece Roussel, who set a LL World Series record with 17 hits, in the same game.
Plus the kids from Louisiana came out of a tough region featuring Texas East and Texas West. They defeated both teams twice to serve notice.
And that they did in a Little League program that manager Scott Frazier founded in 2013 when this current team was 6-7 years old.
“I dreamed about this since I was about that time,” said Prather. “Today I just went out there and did what I had to do. And we hammered the ball, played great in the field, and ran the bases well.”
It only had one tough inning, the fourth when Curaco loaded the bases with one out. But on a hard hit grounder to Louque at third, he fired the ball home to get the force. The next batter came off third on a passed ball, but he was trapped as catcher Ryan Darrah threw to Louque, who tagged the runner to end the threat.
But Louisiana was alert on the bases, stealing second four times and racing home whenever it called for it. Once, two base runners sped home on a wild pitch. It scored once in the top of the first, twice in the third, and five times over the last two frames. It also took advantage of three Curaco misuses.
There were few strikeouts as each River Edge hitter met the ball and sprayed it to all parts of Lamade Stadium before an announced crowd of 27,634 on the hill and in the stadium. In fact, every player had a hit over the entire tournament.
“I am so proud of these kids,” Frazier said. “We did everything the way we planned, and that included fundementals, being smart on the bases, putting the ball in play, and playing smart defense, and that includes everybody.”
As for Roussel in the tournament, he put togethernine singles, seven doubles, a home run, and batted in nine runs and scored eight times. He finished with a .739 batting average. He was one of five teammates hit by a pitch. The team committed only three errors in its seven outings.
Curaco was stunned after becoming a team that defeated both South Korea and Japan in the International bracket semis and finals. Its lone loss was 4-0 to South Korea, but it avenged that via 5-3 win and then edged Japan, 5-4, to send the team from Chofu City into the Sunday consolation game against Hawaii, and Japan was victorious 5-0.
Both Curaco and Louisiana faced elimination when it was double-elimination before the championship games.
River Edge nipped Oregon, 3-2, after the loss to Hawaii, but then turned back Minnesota, 10-4, in four mercy-rule innings, ousted New Jersey, 4-1, blanked Virginia, 10-0, in five mercy-rule fram es, then led Hawaii, 9-0, before the kids from Maui scored five times in their final at-bat.
Curaco was 1-1 after disposing of Australia, 11-4, and being blanked by South Korea, 4-0. Then it bounced back with an 8-1 triumph over Canada, a 9-2 win over Venezuela, and the back-to-back victories over South Korea and Japan to finish at 5-2.
Then it ran into chili-hot Louisiana.
Said its manager Nat Castillo: “They were just much better than us, we had no answers. They beat us in every phase of the game and I congratulate them. Great team.”
That they were.
And they are probably being celebrated in the joyful party streets of New Orleans.
NOTES: Nice news. The home plate umpire was Mrs. Kelly Dye, the second woman to umpire in the Little League World Series, and she did a marvelous job. It was the first World Series title for Louisiana. The Caribbean champion won it once, in 2005.
As for batting averages, Louisiana’s Reece Roussel hit .739; Ryder Planchaard, .556; Derrek DeLette, .353; Marshall Louque, .350; Stan Wiltz, 333; Gavin Berry, 308. It batted .362 as a team.
Kavin Rosina was tops for Curaco, 571; and right behind was Curley
Martha, .563 with 9 total hits, 3 home runs, 5 singles, one double; Jurdrick Profar, .438; Shandrion Martinous, .377; Zion Pardo, .333. It batted .312 as a team.