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Louisiana holds off New Jersey rally

A closer look at the 4-1 River Ridge, Louisiana win over Elizabeth, New Jersey, Wednesday at Lamade Stadium.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Stan Wiltz’s game-ending catch – New Jersey was mounting a sixth-inning rally after two consecutive batters reached base with two outs while cutting the deficit to, 4-1. Yadi Mateo then hit a line drive that looked like it might go for an RBI single and bring the tying run to the plate. Instead, Wiltz read the ball well, stuck with it and made a pretty shoestring catch as Louisiana celebrated its third straight Series win.

NEW JERSEY PLAYER OF THE GAME: J.R. Rosado – He shined in relief against Rhode Island a night earlier and Rosado was outstanding again, starting against Louisiana. Rosado did not allow an earned run in his five innings of work and also surrendered just three hits. All that against a team that had 11 hits in its previous win against Minnesota. Rosado struck out seven and also delivered both of New Jersey’s two hits, going 2 for 3 with an RBI triple. Rosado made sure New Jersey went down swinging and his two-out RBI triple to deep right field with two outs in the sixth inning created one last memory in a summer filled with them for this hard-working team. “J.R pitched amazing,” New Jersey manager Jairo Labrador said.

LOUISIANA PLAYER OF THE GAME: Egan Prather — Prather delivered the performance of his young life, throwing 5 1/3 near-perfect innings. The 12-year-old brilliantly mixed his pitches, retired the first 10 batters he faced and allowed just one hit. Prather struck out 10, recording 10 of his 16 outs via strikeout and mowed through a strong offense that produced 19 runs in the Mid-Atlantic Regional final. By lifting him at 65 pitches, manager Scott Frazier also kept Prather eligible to pitch Sunday if Louisiana advances that far.

BIG INNING: Louisiana’s third – The Southwest champions took advantage of two costly errors, scoring three two-out unearned runs and taking a 4-0 lead. Reece Roussel, who is 9 for his last 14, hit a leadoff single, but was erased on a fielder’s choice a batter later. Louisiana then seized on a hit batter, an infield error and a three-base throwing error that made it a four-run game.

BEST EFFORT: Egan Prather’s pitching – This is an easy choice because Prather was absolutely sensational. Pitching an elimination game against a powerful opponent, Prather showed no fear and kept going right after hitters. Prather put his team on his back and delivered a memorable performance that the Eastbank Little League will long remember.

FLASHING LEATHER: Louisiana right fielder Reece Roussel opened the second inning with an impressive running catch that prevented Jayden Capindica from hitting a leadoff single. New Jersey shortstop Sal Garcia has been put on a defensive show all Series and came up huge in the second inning when he fielded a grounder, tagged second and made a quick throw to first that completed an inning-ending double play. Marshall Louque helped stifle any momemtum New Jersey might be building in the fourth inning when he stayed with a hard-hit Yadi Mateo grounder, knocking it down, keeping it in front of him and making a rocket throw across the field. First baseman Conner Perrot then made a snap throw back to Louque who tagged out a runner trying to take an extra base as Louisiana turned an inning-ending double play.

WHAT THE ADULTS SAY: “At the end of the day, we want to be competitive and represent our city, our town, our state the best we can, but we’re having a great time,” Louisiana manager Scott Frazier said. “I would rather have come through this way (three straight wins after dropping first Series game) then the other way because we’re getting to play more games.”

“We went out like champions,” Labrador said. “We’re a top 4 team in the country right now. We played in Williamsport in the Little League World Series, some boys from Elizabeth, New Jersey. That’s it.”

WHAT THE KIDS SAY: “From Day 1 we all had confidence that we could go far,” Lousiana catcher Ryder Planchard said. “Now with this big win we can keep pushing forward with our pitching.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Louisiana is now one of the country’s top three Little League teams and is a victory away from playing in the U.S. championship. It plays the Hawaii-Virginia loser in its next game with that winner moving on to the national championship. New Jersey closed out a remarkable summer-long run, finishing as the country’s fourth-best Little League team.

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