SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Justin Lee is becoming a known quantity for baseball fans of all ages.
The 12-year-old from South Riding threw the second no-hitter for Loudoun South American Little League at the Little League World Series in an 11-0 win against Midwest champion Minnesota on Sunday.
The boys from Virginia, the Southeast region champions, have been dominant in their first two games here. And they have yet to allow a hit.
Lee, Liam Thyen and Chase Obstgarten combined to shut down New England champion Rhode Island, 3-0, on Friday. Lee returned to the mound Sunday and went the distance before 15,447 at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.
On 54 pitches, 32 of them strikes, Lee struck out six and walked two. The game ended after 3 1/2 innings under Little League margin-of-victory rules.
“I have no words. It’s just, I guess sometimes you get lucky, and this week has been very fortunate for me,” Lee said. “I’ve been getting to meet a lot of cool people. This whole thing, being here is all great, and getting to throw two no-hitters feels amazing.”
Virginia is the sixth team in Little League World Series history to throw multiple no-hitters in the same tournament. This year’s World Series already has had three no-hitters, including one by Caribbean champion Curaçao.
Virginia will face West champion Hawaii or Mid-Atlantic champ New Jersey at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the U.S. semifinals.
Sunday’s win was another leg in a dream ride for Loudoun South and Manager Alan Bowden. He has coached the team’s nucleus for a number of years, and 10 of the 13 players on this year’s team were on the 11-year-old squad that won the district and advanced to a regional semifinal a year ago. Bowden and the team’s assistant coaches have been banking leave time at work ever since, just in case this year’s team made it all the way to South Williamsport.
And on Sunday, fresh off the win over Rhode Island and more accustomed to the attention that surrounds the players here — games are broadcast nationally, and fans seek out players for autographs as they walk through the ballpark village — Loudoun South was ready for Minnesota.
Lee cruised through the first two innings with three strikeouts while inducing weak contact. Thyen, in center field, robbed Minnesota of its best chance at a hit with a diving catch of a blooper behind second base to end the top of the second inning. Lee barely needed help from his defense after that; his teammates calmly made routine play after routine play.
Virginia pushed across three runs in the first on Thyen’s bases-clearing double, then added five in the second with a pair coming on a double by Colton Hicks. Three more runs in the third made it 11-0.
“Our 1, 2 and 3 batters always get on and always get big hits in big moments. And me and Colton, I feel like, especially Colton, he’s a really good power hitter,” Thyen said. “We are a very good hitting team, and from the top to the bottom everyone can hit and everyone contributes to the game.”
Lee kept rolling on the mound, mixing a curveball with a fastball at a velocity hitters this age seldom encounter. After walking the first batter in the third inning, he retired the side on a strikeout, popout and bunt. He walked the leadoff man in the fourth, too, but got the first out on a fielder’s choice and the second on a strikeout.
As the potential final out came to the plate, Bowden asked the official scorer to verify Lee’s pitch count; players are limited in how many pitches they can throw, based on mandatory days of rest. Lee had a few more pitches before he would be forced out of the contest.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘I’m not going to walk this kid,’ ” Lee said. “I really wanted this.”
Lee blew a 1-2 fastball past the Minnesota batter, then threw his hands in the air in triumph. First baseman Matt Coleman ran toward Lee and jumped on him as teammates gathered around.
Lee said he didn’t know whether he had ever thrown a no-hitter during the regular season at Loudoun South. He won’t forget these two.