“Of course,” they said.
The team from South Riding defeated Peachtree City, Ga., 12-2, on Wednesday in Warner Robbins, Ga., to earn the right to represent the commonwealth and teams from Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and West Virginia, in the world championship for 12-year-olds.
The tournament begins next week in Williamsport, Pa., and will be broadcast nationally on the ESPN networks and ABC. Loudoun South will face the New England champion at 3 p.m. on Aug. 15, at historic Howard J. Lamade Stadium.
This Virginia squad, a team of all-stars from the 500-player American division of Loudoun South Little League, is the first to advance this far since Springfield Central lost in a 1994 national semifinal.
“It’s still unreal,” Triplett, an assistant coach, said in a phone interview as he drove up Georgia back roads on the way home.
“Before the [regional] championship game, we all had butterflies in our stomach, and when the ump said play ball, they all went away and we did what we did,” said his son Chase, who went 1 for 2 with a double. He ran back in from a pit stop at a grocery store to hop on the phone.
“This year, I thought, win states and we’ll see what happens at regionals,” he said. “And yesterday, when we won, we couldn’t hold in the tears. It was unbelievable.”
But Coach Alan Bowden and Loudoun South have been beating down the door to the Little League World Series for a full year now. Last year’s 12-year-old team lost to Peachtree City in the regional championship game, while the 11-year-olds went to the regional semifinals.
This year, after dropping one game in the double-elimination district tournament, the “Big Red Machine,” as supporters call the team, ripped off six straight wins to capture the region. The team has won 16 of its past 17 games and 21 elimination games dating from 2018.
“We knew we had a great group of kids going into this year, and it was just looking around the league and figuring out do we need help in this spot or that spot,” Triplett said. “It’s a great group of kids. We can plug anybody in anywhere around the field and be completely confident.”
And even with Wednesday’s game broadcast on ESPN with hundreds in the crowd watching, Loudoun South was cool as can be. Chase Obstgarten blew the game open with a second-inning grand slam. The Machine added six more runs in the fifth in a spree that included back-to-back home runs from Justin Lee and Colton Hicks, the No. 3 and 4 hitters.
Lee also started on the mound and struck out seven in 5 2/3 innings.
“They didn’t flinch about the cameras. They were excited about it,” Triplett said. “These kids took it in stride and ran with it. They were more excited about the opportunity to drive a ball or make a catch and run home and watch the replay. They’re stoked about it.
“I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like when they walk on Lamade on Thursday and there’s 15,000 people there.”
His son Brett, a third baseman and outfielder, doesn’t seem too concerned.
“I’m just going to be excited to be there and finally play on the field,” he said. “I’ve been watching games at home for years, and I’ve always wanted to go, and now it’s like a dream come true.”
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