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Prather was big under spotlight

Egan Prather has pitched great before. Actually, he has been sensational just about every time he has pitched this summer.

But Prather never pitched in a big game before earning the start in Wednesday’s elimination game against Elizabeth, New Jersey. And Prather never opened a game on the mound, throwing in front of more fans.

It kind of makes one thing how good Prather might be in front of tens of thousands of fans. Because in front of more than 4,000 yesterday at Lamade Stadium, he was untouchable.

Prather threw 5 1/3 innings of one-hit baseball and helped River Ridge, Louisiana defeat New Jersey, 4-1. Considering the stage and the ramifications, Prather never threw a better game, stifling a powerful offense and moving Louisiana into the U.S. Loser’s bracket final.

“It’s amazing because I’ve never pitched in front of that many people,” Prather said. “Toward the fifth and sixth innings I was starting to get a little tired, but I knew I had to keep going.”

Prather kept going all day long on hot, humid day against a team that scored 19 runs in the Mid-Atlantic championship. The right-hander took a perfect game into the fourth inning, retiring the first 10 batters he faced. He struck out 10 and exited after fanning his 10th batter with one out in the sixth inning.

Louisiana manager Scott Frazier was planning on Prather throwing the maximum 85 pitches, but a 4-0 sixth-inning lead granted him flexibility and he pulled Prather at 65 pitches, meaning he can throw again Sunday if Louisiana makes it that far. That means Frazier now has quite an ace up his sleeve if his team plays for a world championship.

“Egan did exactly what Egan does,” Frazier said. “He keeps the ball down. He has a very good curveball, he’s got a very good changeup, he can spot his pitches and he’s very competitive. He’s going to battle.”

Frazier smiled and gave Prather a high-five when he replaced him in the sixth inning. It was well-deserved because Prather was about as close to perfect as a pitcher can be. His 10 strikeouts were a U.S high at the Series and he skillfully mixed pitches, moved the ball around and drilled his spots.

Prather struck out the side in the first inning, setting the tone against three tremendous hitters. The 12-year old fanned six of the first nine batters he faced and allowed just a J.R. Rosado fourth-inning single. No runner moved past first base against Prather and he is up to 13 strikeouts in three Series appearances.

“He was phenomenal. He had command of both of his pitches. We were late on his fastball to start,” New Jersey manager Jairo Labrador said. “He had us guessing and that’s the worst thing for a batter when you’re guessing up there.”

Prather was in total control and struck out at least two hitters in three of his five completed innings. It was the latest in a long line of superb Prather performances this summer. He closed out the Southwest championship against Texas and did not allow a run in four innings at that tournament. He also surrendered just one hit in four innings and struck out eight, helping Louisiana go undefeated and end Texas’s seven-year run as regional champions.

Prather can bring it with his fastball, but he is a pitcher’s pitcher. He is not just out there throwing. He is a strikeout pitcher because his mind is as sharp as his arm is electric.

Louisiana was extra careful with the top five hitters in New Jersey’s lineup, all who have the ability to change a game’s complexion with one swing. That meant, Prather was working the corners, changing hitters’ eye levels and keeping them off-balance.

This is what Prather has done throughout Louisiana’s summer-long run. The difference this time was that more than 4,000 fans at Lamade Stadium and millions more worldwide saw first hand just what makes him so good.

“We do a good job of mixing up pitches and the kids are phenomenal with throwing a 3-1 curveball or changeup or whatever,” Frazier said. “Those guys were guessing. They didn’t know what was coming. I can only call those pitches if the kids are making the pitches. By those guys being able to make those pitches it makes my job a lot easier because we had those guys on their heels the whole time.”

And that allowed the biggest crowd Prather has ever pitched in front of the opportunity to sit back and enjoy his excellence.”

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