SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Louisiana’s Reece Roussel had a two-run single that broke the Little League World Series tournament record for hits with 15. At the time, it seemed like a footnote.
His hit in the sixth inning Saturday that gave Louisiana a 7-0 lead over Hawaii turned out to be the most important of all his hits at the LLWS. Roussel and his teammates from River Ridge survived a late comeback try by Hawaii and won 9-5, earning a spot in the tournament title game.
Down 9-0 in the sixth, Hawaii mounted a five-run rally and had the bases loaded before falling short.
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Reece, who celebrated his record by sharing a smile and a high-five with his first base coach, said the record-breaking hit became more special after Hawaii’s comeback attempt.
“I think it’s awesome,” Reece said.
After four scoreless innings, Louisiana broke through with five runs in the fifth and four in the sixth, led by Reece and Marshall Louque, who had three extra-base hits and four RBIs.
Behind 4? scoreless innings from starter William Andrade, Louisiana looked poised to coast to a win.
“That’s exactly what I expected from Will,” Louisiana coach Scott Frazier said. “It’s easy to call pitches when the kids are making the pitches.”
The team from Maui, trying to defend the LLWS title won last year by a club from Honolulu, had other plans.
Hawaii scored five times in the sixth against two different Louisiana relievers, even bringing the tying run to the plate with just one out.
“‘Oh God, don’t screw this up because I won’t be able to go home.’ That was pretty much what was going through my mind,” Frazier said.
Then a line drive off the bat of Nakea Kahalehau landed in the glove of Louisiana shortstop Stan Wiltz, who beat a Hawaii baserunner to second to complete a game-ending double play.
More than a week after Hawaii sent Louisiana to the elimination bracket in the first game each of the teams played in South Williamsport, Louisiana got its revenge with a fifth straight victory.
Ryder Planchard, who knocked in the first run of the game with a pinch-hit single, secured the final two outs on the mound, and a date with Curacao — 5-4 winners over Japan — in the championship game Sunday.
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It’s the first time since the format was expanded to 16 teams that two clubs who played through the elimination bracket will face off in the title game.
Ryder happily paid the price on the mound for his clutch pitching, when he was flattened by teammate Egan Prather.
The celebratory dogpile was on.
“We had to start it somehow,” an unapologetic Egan said with a laugh.
David Eckert is a journalism student at Penn State University.