Virginia trio combine on no-hitter to beat Rhode Island

A closer look at the 3-0 South Riding, Virginia, win over Barrington, Rhode Island, on Friday at Lamade Stadium as Justin Lee, Liam Thyen and Chase Obstgarten combined on a no-hitter.

PLAY OF THE GAME: Brady Yates’s go-ahead home run — Alex Anderson pitched a fantastic game for Rhode Island and was up to 10 2/3 straight scoreless innings, going back to regionals, with two outs in the fifth inning. That is when Yates slammed the first pitch he saw over the right-center field wall for the two-run home run that broke a scoreless tie and paved the way for Virginia’s first Little League World Series win since 1994.

RHODE ISLAND PLAYER OF THE GAME: Alex Anderson — He is only 11, but Anderson continues delivering strong performances on huge stages. Anderson stymied a potent Virginia offense until the sixth inning, giving his team a shot at building a lead. He threw a complete-game shutout in an elimination regional game victory last week and was outstanding again on Little League’s biggest stage.

VIRGINIA PLAYER OF THE GAME: Justin Lee — In addition to throwing 2 2/3 innings of no-hit baseball and striking out two, Lee also went 2 for 2 with a walk, two singles and a run. He also played three positions, starting on the mound, moving to first base and finishing as Virginia’s catcher.

BIG INNING: Virginia fifth — The unsung hero in that fifth inning was Kian Henson who hit a one-out, pinch-hit single into center field. That allowed Yates the opportunity to hit his two-out home run two batters later and give Virginia the lead it did not relinquish.

BEST EFFORT: Virginia’s pitching — Lee, Thyen and Obstgarten were dominant and, better yet for Virginia, all remain eligible to pitch in its next game. Lee struck out two in 2 2/3 innings before Thyen retired all eight batters he faced. The left-hander struck out six, including the first four batters he faced. Obstagarten then struck out two, closing out the no-hitter and giving Virginia 10 strikeouts.

FLASHING LEATHER: Owen Pfeffer started strong in the bottom of the first inning, leaping high and snaring a line drive while robbing Chase Obstgarten of a leadoff double. If Pfeffer did not make that play, Brady Yates might have scored Obstgarten a batter later when he singled. Rhode Island third baseman James Caldarella stifled a Virginia rally two innings later when he dove down the line and stopped a hard-hit Colton Hicks grounder. Caldarella quickly rose to his feet and alertly made a quick throw to second base, completing an inning-ending fielder’s choice. Anderson kept the defensive gems coming in the fourth inning, snaring a hard-hit Brett Triplett grounder and throwing to second to start an inning-ending double play, the third Rhode Island has turned in its last two games. Virginia third baseman Brody Harris made an excellent play to preserve the no-hitter in the sixth inning, scooping a tricky Cullen Crain one-hopper and making a snap throw to first.

HOME RUNS: The Rhode Island outfielders told the story when Yates went with the low pitch and drove it out of the park. All they could do was watch it as it sailed over Lamade Stadium’s fence and gave Virginia a 2-0 lead.

WHAT THE ADULTS SAY: “He’s not a thrower, he’s a pitcher. Everyone had the chance to see that today. Alex pitched lights out,” Rhode Island manager Chris Promades said. “He battled, he grinded, he competed. He was basically a symbol of the team. He’s a small guy, but he pitches with the heart of a lion.”

WHAT THE KIDS SAY: “When I hit that, I knew it was gone,” Yates said. “I heard the sound of the bat and it was a good feeling hitting the home run and taking the lead.”

WHAT IT MEANS: Virginia moves to Sunday’s winners’ bracket semifinals and plays Minnesota, a 2-1 winner over Kentucky on Friday. The winner of that game would then be just a victory away from reaching the U.S. championship game. Rhode Island still has life and will try to avoid elimination Saturday when it plays Kentucky.