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Lee tosses no-hitter for Virginia

South Riding, Virginia pitcher Justin Lee, center, celebrates as he walks off the field with Chase Obstgarten, left, and Colton Hicks (9) after getting the final out of the fourth inning and an 11-0 win over Coon Rapids, Minnesota in a baseball game at the Little League World Series tournament in South Williamsport, Pa., Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019. Lee allowed no hits in the contest. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

A closer look at the South Riding, Virginia’s 11-0, four-inning win over Coon Rapids, Minnesota, on Sunday at Lamade Stadium. Justin Lee threw a no-hitter, Virginia’s second straight at the Series.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Justin Lee’s game-ending strikeout — Before 2017, no American team had ever opened the Little League World Series with consecutive no-hitters. Now it has happened twice in three years. As yellow-clad fans rose and loudly cheered, Lee ended a second straight Virginia no-hitter with a strikeout. Lee threw 2 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball in a combined no-hitter against Rhode Island Friday before going the distance yesterday.

VIRGINIA PLAYER OF THE GAME: Liam Thyen — The center fielder played outstanding defense and also had a big day offensively, hitting a three-run double, walking and hitting a sacrifice fly. Thyen produced a game-high four RBIs and his three-run double in the first inning set the tone, giving Virginia a quick 3-0 lead.

BIG INNING: Virginia’s second — The Southeast champions scored three times in the first inning to take a quick lead, but it was the second inning that broke the game wide open. Virginia scored five runs and batted around while taking an 8-0 lead. Only one out was recorded as Virginia batted around that was a productive Brady Yates sacrifice fly. Colton Hicks hit a two-run double that highlighted the rally and Chase Obstagarten added an RBI double. Chase Triplett came off the bench and hit an RBI single as Virginia sent 11 batters to the plate.

BEST EFFORT: Justin Lee’s pitching — The hard-throwing 12-year-old has quickly built off a sensational Southeast Regional performance, throwing 6 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball at the Series. Lee struck out six and kept his pitch count down, keeping him and all of Virginia’s pitchers eligible to throw in Wednesday’s winners’ bracket final.

FLASHING LEATHER: Virginia center fielder Liam Thyen kept Virginia’s no-hit streak in tact when he made a fantastic diving catch in the second inning. Thyen charged a sinking line drive, slide on his knees and held on to the ball, robbing Jameson Kuznia of a leadoff single. Minnesota pitcher Maddy Freking showed off her defensive prowess to close out the second inning. The pitcher raced off the mound and stopped a slow rolling grounder before quickly flipping to home for a force out that left the bases loaded. Virginia catcher Noah Culpepper kept the no-hitter alive in the third inning, jumping all over a well-placed Cayden Alphin bunt. It looked like the speedy Alphin would beat out the bunt, but Culpepper’s alert play and snap throw erased that threat. Minnesota’s Carson Timm made an outstanding stop on a wicked one-hopper hit down the first-base line in the third inning, taking a hit from Michael Bowden.

WHAT THE ADULTS SAY: “We feel very fortunate to be here as it is,” Virginia manager Alan Bowden said. “To come out here and get two wins, we’re absolutely elated.”

WHAT THE KIDS SAY: “That last out, I was very nervous,” Lee said. “I knew that since I was past my pitch count that I could finish that batter (before coming out) so I was thinking to myself I don’t want to walk this kid because I really wanted this and it happened.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Virginia advances to Wednesday’s winners’ bracket final against either Hawaii or New Jersey and is one victory from reaching the United States championship game. Minnesota will try to work its way into the U.S. Final Four today when it plays Louisiana in an elimination game.

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