Louque authors no-hitter as Louisiana tops Virginia
Pitcher Marshall Louque was untouchable. Utilizing a swing that might make Mike Trout blush. Reece Roussel looked invincible.
Their teammates looked mighty strong, too. Put all that together and River Ridge, Louisiana, easily became one of the country’s top two teams.
Louque threw a five-inning no-hitter, Roussel went 4 for 4 with a grand slam and three doubles, and Lousiana scored nine runs over the last two innings as it pummeled South Riding, Virginia, 10-0, in Thursday’s losers’ bracket final at Lamade Stadium. Louisiana earned a spot in Saturday’s U.S. Final against Hawaii. It has won four consecutive Little League World Series games since losing to the West champions, 5-2, last Friday.
“We’ve just worked really hard,” left fielder Gavin Berry said after going 1 for 2 with a double and two RBIs. “I feel like we’re going to do great.”
Following Wednesday’s 4-1 win against New Jersey, Louisiana manager Scott Frazier made a promise. He told the assembled media it had not yet seen the real Louque pitch at the Series. He had thrown in two previous games, but Frazier said his staff ace would come up huge against Virginia.
And, oh, did Louque prove his manager right.
Louque made a statement in the the top of the first when he struck out Virginia’s dynamic top three hitters on 10 pitches. It immediately sent a message it might not be Virginia’s night. As the game progressed, that message was pounded home like Alex Van Halen on the drums.
Louque struck out eight, threw 72 pitches and fired first-pitch strikes to 14 of the 16 batters he faced. Roussel helped give Louque a 1-0 third-inning lead when he doubled and scored on Berry’s fielder’s choice. And though the scoreboard still read 1-0 entering the bottom of the fourth, the way Louque was pitching, it felt more like it was 11-0.
“I felt good coming into this,” Louque said. “I was confident in myself. I just wanted to throw strikes and let my defense work.”
“We anticipated this from Marshall,” Frazier said. “He’s a beast. I knew he would step up big. The bigger the stage, the better he does.”
Just imagine how big that margin against Louque appeared when Lousiana’s offense erupted. Roussel’s grand slam highlighted a seven-run, fourth-inning explosion which all but sealed the game. Louisiana opened the inning with five straight hits and seven straight hitters reached base. Pinch-hitters Alton Shorts and Jeffrey Curtis opened the inning with singles before Ryan Darrah played small ball and dropped a bunt single to load the bases.
It was then Roussel’s turn to play long ball.
Roussel is in a groove that would make Marvin Gaye jealous and slammed the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence and the concrete wall behind it for a grand slam that made it, 5-0. Roussel added an RBI double an inning later and is 13 for 17 at the Series with six RBIs, five doubles and six runs. Roussel is just one hit from tying the Series-record for hits in a tournament.
“I didn’t know it (the grand slam) was going out,” Roussel said. “As soon as it went over the fence and I knew it was out, I was the happiest person on Earth.”
“That was a fastball off the plate. I asked our catcher if he hit his spot and he said yes. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to these phemonenal athletes,” Virginia manager Alan Bowden said. “That was a hell of a hit.”
Virginia had quite a run, finishing as the country’s third-best Little League team. The Loudoun South American Little Leaguers became the first Virginia team to reach the Series since 1994 and won their first two games, throwing no-hitters each time.
Obviously, the players were upset following last night’s defeat, but that does not diminish what Virginia achieved. That was Bowden’s message following the game. Ultimately, the fans back home and throughout Virginia will not remember where this team finished, but that it reached such remarkable heights.
“We’ve been together for 80 days and I never dreamed we would get here,” Bowden said. “They are all phemonenal kids and I expect big things from them in the future. It was a dream-like run.”
Louisiana might have felt like it was dreaming over those last two innings when they pounded out nine hits and scored nine runs. The way the last two innings unfolded seemed symbolic as well.
Each time Louisiana wins it becomes the biggest victory in Eastbank Little League history. And how it pulled off this latest signature win was the way it has produced them throughout the summer. Roussel and Louque were the standouts, but it was a collective effort with all 13 players fulfilling their roles.
Nine players produced hits, the defense made some outstanding plays and the reserves came up huge. Roussel’s grand slam became the signature offensive play, but it was Shorts who ignited the rally, coming off the bench, working back from an 0-2 count and hitting a leadoff single on the seventh pitch. Curtis followed and when Darrah loaded the bases for Roussel it felt like everything was coming together. Those three set the fuse and Roussel poured the gasoline upon it.
“Alton Shorts started it tonight for us. Jeffrey Curtis came in and got the hit and Ryan Darrah had a great bunt and the train was rolling,” Frazier said. “Then Reece hits the jack. That’s it. The game was over at that point. Everybody had something to do with this win. It’s always been a complete game. We always preach to the guys that it’s not about any one individual, it’s about the team. It’s always a team effort for us.”
It again was a reserve who sparked Louisiana’s game-clinching, fifth-inning rally. Petyon Spadoni drew a leadoff walk and scored when Roussel smashed his third double. Two batters later, Conner Perrot hit a walkoff single and Louisiana was a U.S. Finalist.
Louisiana will now play through Sunday, extending its historic summer-long run as long as it can go. But this team does not want to be playing in a consolation game Sunday. It wants to be in the main event.
Hawaii is the only team that has defeated Louisiana this year and the Southwest champions are excited they have a second chance against it. Who wins that game is uncertain, but Louisiana is showing no fear and feeling mighty good as it approaches.
After last night’s performance, who could blame it?
“We’ve got a lot of momentum on our side at this point. At the end of the game I gave my best Coach O (LSU football coach Ed Orgeron) speech,” Louisiana manager Scott Frazier said. “I said, ‘We’re coming.’ We’re coming on Saturday, so boot up. Louisiana is coming to play. We’re not happy to be there. We want to win the game.”