SAN BERNARDINO — Four days off did little to affect the top of El Segundo Little League’s lineup.
Brody Brooks, Louis Lappe and Jaxon Kalish all scored in the top of the first inning as Southern California’s 11- and 12-yard-old champions topped their Northern California peers, 3-1, in the Little League West Region championship game on Friday night, securing a trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
“It’s not fun to have four days off but at the end of the day, we got to go home and sleep in our own beds and we needed it,” El Segundo manager Danny Boehle said.
Lappe struck out eight to earn the victory for El Segundo (3-0 overall), which has yet to lose this postseason.
“’Lou’ is a spectacular player and pitcher. He shows no emotion,” Boehle said. “Some guys hang their heads or get too high. Not Lou.”
El Segundo was the last of 20 teams to earn a berth in this year’s Little League World Series and will open play Thursday against the Great Lakes Regional champion. There are 10 teams from the United States and 10 international squads. The championship game is scheduled for Aug. 27 on ABC (Ch. 7).
El Segundo, which hadn’t played since Monday, will be making its first appearance in Williamsport.
“This is huge for El Segundo. We’ve never got anywhere close, so this is special,” said Boehe, still dripping after receiving a post-game ice water shower from his players.
“I believe in ‘We over me’ – I believe that – and these kids have each other’s backs,” Boehle said. “It’s a pleasure to coach this team.”
Lappe loaded the bases in the top of the first inning but struck out the side to escape, and Brody Brooks led off the bottom of the fourth with his fourth hit in as many at-bats before coming around to score on a wild pitch as El Segundo grabbed an early 3-0 lead.
Brandon Manivong entered for NorCal starter Mikey Wong and attempted to single-handedly will his team back, pitching five scoreless innings and hitting a deep home run – his second of the tournament – into the tents in left-center field to get NorCal on the scoreboard in the fourth.
After closing each of El Segundo’s previous wins, Lappe scattered just five hits over 5⅔ innings, the longest outing of any SoCal pitcher at the four-team West Region tournament.
“I thought I pitched pretty well,” Lappe said. “My fastball didn’t feel its fastest but it was working and effective, and my curveball was good and it was throwing them off.”
Kalish entered the game with two outs in the sixth and got Wong to fly out to right field to end the game.
El Segundo had defeated NorCal, 4-3, last Saturday in the regional opener for both teams, with El Segundo rallying for three runs in the bottom of the fourth.
“We tried to learn from the first game facing (Manivong), what he did to us, so I think by facing him already it made us ready for this game,” Lappe said.
Lappe also went 2 for 2 to finish the tournament with six hits, the most of any player this week in San Bernardino.
Earlier Friday, Nolan Gifford struck out 11 in hurling a no-hitter as Nevada topped Utah, 10-0, in a game that was shortened to four innings via the competition rule to win the Mountain Region final.