WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — Little Leaguers everywhere dream of a moment like this.
Louis Lappe hit a game-winning home run in the sixth inning, becoming an instant legend and giving El Segundo the Little League World Series title with a 6-5 victory over Curaçao on Sunday.
Lappe flipped his bat and threw his arms in the air as he trotted around the bases, leaping onto home plate as he was greeted by his teammates surrounding the batter’s box. The leadoff hitter in the bottom of the sixth inning, Louis lofted the second pitch he saw just beyond the left field fence.
“This is a unique feeling that maybe only five or less people experience in their lifetime,” said Lappe, who finished the tournament with five homers, the most of any player. “I feel great. It’s hard to beat this feeling. I don’t know what would make me feel happier.”
El Segundo survived an early loss, overcame sickness and stood up to the pressure of playing in the 20-team tournament to win it all. El Segundo had to win five consecutive elimination games to become the first team from California to capture the title since Huntington Beach’s Ocean View Little League in 2011. It is the eighth Little League World Series title won by a team from California – the most of any U.S. state – and the first for an L.A. County team since Long Beach won in 1993.
“It’s been a long two months, but it’s been a loving, wonderful ending to the last two months of our mission,” El Segundo manager Danny Boehle said. “I think it’s priceless and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.”
Several players stepped up for El Segundo throughout its run, but two have stood out a little more than the rest and that trend continued Sunday.
Brody Brooks and Lappe continued to play starring roles. Brooks started it and Lappe ended it.
Brooks opened the game with a single and scored as El Segundo grabbed an early lead. Lappe ended it with what might become one of the most famous home runs in Little League history.
“When that pitch came, even before I hit it, I was like, ‘Oh!’” said Lappe, a 12-year-old who stands 6-foot-1. “I was so excited and happy. When I got around to home plate, I made sure to touch it.”
Boehle said he thought Curaçao, which had erased a four-run deficit with a dramatic grand slam one inning earlier, would likely pitch around Lappe.
“My initial thought was they weren’t going to pitch to him,” Boehle said. “I wouldn’t have pitched to him, but I know him.”
El Segundo players will return home as world champions. It wasn’t easy, especially in Sunday’s contest against the Caribbean champs from Pabao Little League in Willemstad, Curacao.
El Segundo took a 5-1 lead into the fifth inning, but Curaçao hit a grand slam that tied the score at 5-5. Brooks was then handed the ball as Manager Danny Boehle turned to his biggest players in the biggest moment.
Brooks has been a big reason for El Segundo’s early success in games. He entered Sunday’s title game with five hits in his last two games. That included a 3-for-3 performance in the U.S. title game, including a home run.
Brooks put himself in Williamsport. He had 13 hits, 13 runs scored and five RBIs in El Segundo’s seven World Series games.
El Segundo’s No. 2 hitter isn’t bad either.
Lappe posted 10 hits (five of them homers) and scored eight runs with 10 RBIs.
“These guys know what they’re doing and they believe in the coaches,” Boehle said. “We believe in them. It’s just the attitude and the personalities they’ve chosen over the years that has kept us so connected.”
Brooks and Lappe opened the game with back-to-back singles. Lucas Keldorf drove a ball to the center field fence to score both Brooks and Lappe.
Colby Lee and Brooks walked in the third inning to put runners in scoring position. Lappe then drew a five-pitch walk to load the bases for Kalish, who drove in two runs with a double.
“The five guys that I have in the top of the lineup, they’re as good as anyone in this tournament,” Boehle said. “I stand by that full-heartedly.”
Max Baker opened the fourth inning with a triple into right field. Crew O’Connor hit him home with a single and El Segundo had a 5-1 lead.
Ollie Parks started the game for El Segundo. He struck out the side in the first inning and pitched into the fifth.
Curaçao got a run back in the third when Jay-Dlynn Wiel and Nasir El-Ossais connected with back-to-back singles. Shemar Sophia Jacobus recorded the third single of the inning to score Wiel from second. A ground ball to second base ended the inning.
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In the fifth inning, Nasir El-Ossais stunned El Segundo fans everywhere and completely changed the game with his two-out home run over the right field fence for a game-tying grand slam.
But Lappe led off the bottom of the sixth inning, blasting the home run to send El Segundo home as world champs.
“It’s super exciting,” Kalish said. “It’s kind of settling in right now that we’re the best in the world. At first, it was kind of shocking because Louis just hit a home run and the game was over.”
“Now I can get emotional,” Boehle said, tearing up afterward as his son, Quinn, who is on the team, hugged him. “We finally made it. That was our mission, to do it with my son and all these boys. … What we did may never happen again in the history of El Segundo.”
Curacao, a small island off the coast of Venezuela that is home to just 150,000 residents, has represented the international side of the bracket in the championship the last three times non-U.S. teams have competed – in 2019, 2022 and this year – but has lost each time.
There was no tournament in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2021 tournament was limited to American teams because of travel restrictions.
Curacao returned five players and its coaching staff from the team that lost to Hawaii, 13-3, in the 2022 final.
The city of El Segundo will host a parade for the winning team on Sept. 10 at noon on Main Street.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.