The 2019 Little League World Series has been marked by memorable plays and inspirational moments. We asked some of the folks who had front-row seats for all the action — on and off the field — in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, to weigh in with their favorite LLWS stories.
A brave little brother
Marshall and Maddox Louque, two baseball-loving brothers from River Ridge, Louisiana, share a bond that extends beyond the field.
Marshall’s Louisiana team, representing the Southwest Region, lost its opening game of the 2019 Little League World Series, falling 5-2 to Hawaii. He started the game and surrendered four runs in the first inning. It was an uncharacteristic performance for the ace, who had helped power River Ridge to Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with both his arm and his bat. But the 12-year-old didn’t despair. He needed look no further than his younger sibling for perspective — and inspiration.
In 2016, at age 6, Maddox was diagnosed with a stage 4 Wilms tumor, or kidney cancer. He endured six weeks of chemotherapy, then had his kidney removed. He was in remission for almost two years before his cancer returned. More spots were found on his lungs.
Maddox underwent a stem cell transplant in March. Now, almost 200 days post-transplant, “He’s doing great,” said his mother, Carmen. She and her husband, Fabian, are joined by Maddox in Williamsport to cheer on Marshall and his team at the LLWS.
“Maddox looks up to his brother, and Marshall looks up to him,” Carmen said. “They’ve both loved baseball since they were little.”
Less than two weeks after his stem cell transplant, Maddox was out in the hallway of the hospital playing whiffle ball. The fact that his IV was still attached didn’t stop the 9-year-old from ripping line drives back at dad. This past spring, even as he underwent chemotherapy, Maddox — a pitcher and infielder, like his brother — played the entire season for his Little League team back in River Ridge.
“On Monday through Friday, he’d be in the hospital, doing chemo, because he wanted to play baseball on Saturday and Sunday,” Carmen said. “The doctors said it was OK. As long as he could keep playing baseball, he was happy.”
Maddox’s fight has helped Marshall and his teammates keep things in perspective this summer.
“Giving up a run or striking out isn’t such a big deal to our guys when they look over at Maddox and see what he is fighting,” said Louisiana manager Scott Frazier. “Marshall doesn’t get too high or too low. He knows it’s nothing compared to what his brother has to go through.”
Louisiana battled its way back through the elimination bracket at the LLWS after that opening loss, reeling off wins against Oregon, Minnesota and New Jersey. Then Marshall threw a no-hitter against Virginia on Thursday that propelled his team into the U.S. Championship game on Saturday — and a rematch with Hawaii at 3 p.m. ET.
Whatever happens in that game, the experience already has been a happy one for the Louque family.
“For Maddox to be here celebrating with his brother is like a dream come true,” Carmen said. “Baseball has been the best medicine.” — Aimee Crawford
Aussies rule the name game
My favorite part of the 2019 Little League World Series was interacting with the Australian team. When I first met the Aussies, a couple of the players called me “mate.” No one has ever called me “mate” before.
The Australians have the best names in the tournament, including a big kid named Oscar Clout. His favorite player is, predictably, Aaron Judge.
They also have a second baseman named Harrison Ford, who listed his favorite actor as … Harrison Ford. “My mom didn’t name me after him; they just liked the name,” he said.
And 83-pound Ewan Choat, who broke so many windows hitting baseballs out of his back yard that his dad built him a batting cage.
Then there is 4-foot-11 Lincoln Gruppelaar, whose birthday is Aug. 27. The Australian team is flying home on Aug. 26. It is a 30-hour flight to Sydney, and with the time change, the players will land on Aug. 28. Lincoln’s birthday will disappear. “It’s OK,” Lincoln said, “we will have a party on the plane.” — Tim Kurkjian
Most inspirational mom
Jenn Bloom, who is battling leukemia, is being interviewed and has a touching reaction when her son, Minnesota’s Dylan Bloom, scores vs. Kentucky.
Jenn Bloom is fighting Leukemia. She was hospitalized for 48 days earlier this year, and she received a bone marrow transplant in May. She wasn’t cleared to travel to Williamsport to watch her son, Dylan, play until just days before the LLWS started.
During Minnesota’s opening game against Kentucky, I was interviewing her when Dylan came around to score his team’s first run. Jenn — who also was celebrating her 16th wedding anniversary with her husband, Greg, who manages Dylan’s team — was explaining how much it meant for her to be there and to have some normalcy back in her life.
“This is why I’m here,” she said, fighting back tears. “We were definitely tested this year. This is why my husband became a single parent for about three months.”
It was an incredibly touching moment. — Julie Foudy
Maddy Freking makes history
Minnesota’s Maddy Freking — the first girl to play in the LLWS since Mo’ne Davis — records a strikeout and makes a great play to throw out a runner at home vs. Virginia.
Minnesota’s Maddy Freking was the 19th girl to play in the Little League World Series — and first since Mo’ne Davis and Emma March in 2014 — and she became only the sixth girl in LLWS history to fire a fastball to opposing hitters. I loved the intensity in her eyes when she was on the mound but enjoyed even more how much being “the only girl” at the tournament didn’t faze her one bit. She was just another pitcher trying to help her team get a win. — Jessica Mendoza
Honoring a teammate’s memory
After each of his four strikeouts against Minnesota, Kentucky’s Grayson Newman traced the No. 11 in the dirt on the mound. He did it in honor of one of his teammates, Mason Goodnight, who played for Bowling Green Eastern Little League until he died on April 6, 2017, at the age of 10 from a rare form of bacterial meningitis.
“[Mason] was one of my best friends and we were really close,” Grayson said. “It’s important to honor him when we play.”
Mason died just six days before Bowling Green’s opening game in 2017. His No. 11 jersey has hung in the dugout during every game the team has played since. Kentucky’s fans wore “MG11” shirts in Williamsport, bringing attention to the Mason Goodnight Fund, which helps provide kids with athletic opportunities.
Jef Goodnight, Mason’s father, is a coach for the Kentucky team. His biggest wish when Mason died was that he wouldn’t be forgotten.
“The Goodnight family has endured something that no parent wants to. One of the things I wanted to achieve was to tell Mason’s story,” Kentucky manager Rick Kelley said.
Jef Goodnight considers the Kentucky players “an extension of Mason.”
“I love them with all my heart,” he said. “I could never in a million years tell them how much they’ve helped me. … Mason and I talked many times about how he wanted to come [to the Little League World Series]. He didn’t get to come here, but he’s made it happen for these kids. And he made it happen for me.”
An angel in the outfield
The No. 11 has special significance in Williamsport. In 1991, Michael Cammarata ran out to right field at the Little League World Series wearing No. 11 for the team from Staten Island, New York. A decade later, Cammarata raced into the World Trade Center and became the youngest firefighter to die following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. His number, which graces the right field wall of Lamade Stadium, is the only one ever retired from use in the Little League World Series.
Mike Whissel, one of Cammarata’s teammates on that LLWS team, returned to Williamsport this year with his father, Jack, and son, Harrison, to celebrate his friend’s memory. One of the first people he met was Janna Goodnight, Mason Goodnight’s mom. They exchanged stories about Mason and Michael.
“I love that Mason’s team keeps his memory alive,” Whissel said. “I find it hard not to root for them.”
Whissel paused by the No. 11 emblem on the outfield wall at Lamade and said a prayer for Cammarata.
“This number is helping keep Mike’s spirit alive and celebrating his joy of life,” Whissel said. “He was a tremendous athlete — and an even better person. He was the ultimate teammate.” — A.C.
Minnesota Little Leaguer Jaxon Knutson makes a diving catch to end the fifth inning and prevent a possible game-tying run.
A true web gem
The play that Minnesota shortstop Jaxson Knutson made in his team’s first game was so good, it brought me out of my seat. Bowling Green was threatening in the bottom of the fifth inning, with runners on first and second and Minnesota up 2-1. Luke Idlett roped a line drive destined for the gap.
From out of nowhere, Knutson dove to his right, extended as far as he could — and made the catch to save the game. After the game, Knutson told Julie Foudy that he was simply thinking, “I’ve gotta keep the ball in the infield.” — Karl Ravech
A show of sportsmanship
Rhode Island pitcher Alex Anderson gave up a home run to Virginia’s Brady Yates in the fifth inning of their game on Aug. 16. As Yates rounded the bases, Anderson stuck out his glove to congratulate him — as did catcher Christopher Promades and several other players in Rhode Island’s infield — as he trotted past.
Yates’ homer broke a 0-0 tie in the fifth inning and ultimately represented the winning runs in Virginia’s 3-0 victory. Anderson could have reacted to it in countless other ways, but his show of sportsmanship resonated with many who were watching, including Yates.
“I didn’t expect it, but it was a cool thing to do,” said Yates.
Was the high-five spontaneous or something Anderson has done before?
“I haven’t given up many homers,” he said with a shrug. “But it seemed like a way to show him some respect.”
Bienvenido a Williamsport
None of the families of the team from Venezuela made the trip to the Little League World Series, so hundreds of fans in Williamsport “adopted” the kids from Cacique Mara Little League in Maracaibo. And perhaps no player from the team got a warmer reception than Diego Boscan.
Boscan did not travel with his teammates to Williamsport from Panama, where the Latin America regional tournament was played, because of visa issues. He missed Venezuela’s opening-round LLWS loss to South Korea and wins over Australia and Mexico.
Jose Briceno, the national director of Little League in Venezuela, said that Boscan was asked during his first application if he had family in the U.S. His application was denied. Boscan’s 23-year-old brother, Francisco Boscan, lives in the U.S. and is a military veteran. As part of the second application, Francisco wrote a letter to the U.S. embassy in Panama. The application was approved on Monday.
Boscan arrived at the Little League complex on Tuesday morning and was on the mound for Venezuela’s 3 p.m. game.
The game didn’t turn out in his favor — Boscan allowed five earned runs in 1⅓ innings as Venezuela was eliminated from championship contention with a 9-2 loss to Curacao — but he finally got to share the experience.
“The important thing is he made it here,” Venezuela manager Luis Gonzalez said. “Now he can enjoy the rest of the week.”
Playing for October, Cubs preach ‘next guy jumps in’ mantra with Rizzo, Baez out
CHICAGO — As if the Chicago Cubs weren’t fighting an uphill battle already, the heart and soul of the team, first baseman Anthony Rizzo, is out indefinitely with an ankle sprain — and it couldn’t come at a worse time of the season. With the Cubs in a dogfight to make the playoffs for a fifth consecutive year, Rizzo’s presence will be missed in all facets of the team.
“It’s going to be tough to be without Anthony for a while here,” team president Theo Epstein said on Monday afternoon. “He’s so important to everything we do, on the field and off the field.”
Shortstop Javier Baez has been out with a thumb injury, but Rizzo might be the bigger loss. He’s integral to everything Cubs, from leading off, to two-strike hitting, to the bunt defense they incorporate — that’s where he got hurt — to simply being the face that meets the media before and after games. For comparison, Baez hasn’t even commented on his injury since being diagnosed with a hairline fracture, whereas Rizzo was at his locker to discuss the bad news on Monday.
“It’s throbbing but I keep my mind in better spirits and try to be in as good a mood as I can,” he said. “Every year isn’t going to be 2016. You have ups and downs. Everyone in this locker room is fully capable of carrying a heavy load at all times.”
As much as the team is hopeful for a quick recovery, the history of moderate ankle sprains doesn’t scream “a few days,” or even a couple of weeks.
“In the meantime you just have to plan that he’s not going to be there,” manager Joe Maddon said. “You have to get the guys ready and get them indoctrinated in these positions. I really believe our guys will rally around this moment. We have different options to play over there.”
It’s true. The team has better defensive options at first base than one might think, but Rizzo was the best leadoff hitter on the team this season. Chicago was terrible from that spot in the order — until he took over recently. So where do the Cubs turn, at first base and leadoff, to help keep their playoff streak alive?
A little-known, switch-hitting, backup catcher has emerged as the best candidate to replace Rizzo at first base, at least on the days he’s not behind the plate. Victor Caratini is actually beginning to make a name for himself, both as Yu Darvish‘s personal catcher and as a decent hitter. It’s not just his OPS+ of 113 that’s impressive, it’s actually his batting average. Sometimes, that statistic tells a story. Hitting .282 entering play on Monday, Caratini has become a more complete hitter. And don’t forget his two home runs that won a game off New York Mets ace Jacob deGrom last month. That was a defining moment for Caratini.
“He’s not chasing as much out of the zone,” Maddon said. “And he’s using left-center a lot more consistently. He’s not hitting that rollover ground ball, left-handed. He’s staying through the ball. Left-center has become his buddy. And the right side has gotten better.”
According to ESPN Stats & Information, 33 percent of Caratini’s balls in play have been to the opposite field; that’s up 10 points from a year ago.
“Caratini has showed time and again he’s good enough to be an everyday player,” outfielder Nicholas Castellanos said. “The fact that he’s getting an opportunity, I’m happy for him.”
Ben Zobrist added: “You don’t make that up with one player. You have to make it up with a couple players. That’s how you try to fill that hole.”
On Tuesday night, in the second game of their series against the Cincinnati Reds, Caratini will be behind the plate for Darvish; the hurler has a 3.17 ERA this season with Caratini catching. It means Maddon will need another first baseman and Ian Happ is his best bet. Like Caratini, he has flashed some decent leather filling in for Rizzo at times, but his offensive game isn’t quite like that of the Cubs’ regular first baseman.
Rizzo has a strikeout rate of 13.9, while Happ is at 25.6 percent after spending four months in the minor leagues. And that percentage is actually down from last year. Meanwhile, Rizzo plays against all types of pitchers, while Happ’s starts are limited to the good matchups. The drop-off is considerable.
“Next man up,” Zobrist said. “Rizz and Javy are a big part of this but no one is bigger than the team.”
It’s the same attitude the Milwaukee Brewers must be embracing as they continue to play good baseball even after losing MVP Christian Yelich to a knee injury. The loss of stars can be overcome for a period of time in baseball. When a very productive player is out several months, that’s when it usually catches up to a team. That’s not the time frame the Cubs are looking at. They can survive — for a bit.
“That’s our expectation,” Maddon said. “Of course it is … It is the next man up kind of a theory. And I do believe there are galvanizing moments when you do lose key people in key situations. I do expect a good result.”
If Maddon expects a good result at the leadoff slot without Rizzo, that might be wishful thinking. With the former All-Star, the team had a .289 OBP from the No. 1 hole, by far the worst in the majors — even though he compiled a .560 mark in six games there.
“When you ask him to lead off he turns into this superb leadoff hitter which we’ve been riding pretty well,” Maddon said as the Cubs won their last four games with Rizzo at the top of the order. “Sometimes he’s undervalued in a sense. He is a bedrock. He’s going to be missed.”
Of course, Rizzo’s absence doesn’t come long after Zobrist returned the team after nearly four months of personal leave time. He’s the next best option to lead off but he can’t play every day. One thing Maddon was able to do during a weekend sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates was remove Zobrist from the game as the Cubs pulled away each day. But that’s not likely to happen as they face better pitching the final two weeks of the season.
“I feel OK,” Zobrist said. “Just trying to manage the fatigue factor, trying to recover as quickly as possible for these games. I don’t feel much pressure because everyone is playing so well right now.”
It means on the days Zobrist doesn’t play, Maddon might have to use a dartboard to pick a leadoff man. He can’t do worse.
Raise your hand if you thought the Cubs were done when the runner-up to last year’s MVP went down for the rest of the regular season. The loss of Baez felt monumental, but then again, who knew a 22-year-old playing in Double-A this year, rookie Nico Hoerner, would light the baseball world on fire and become an instant fan favorite?
“You don’t replace an Anthony Rizzo or Javy Baez,” Zobrist said. “The next guy jumps in there and does what he’s capable of doing.”
So far, Hoerner has been more than capable at shortstop, and his 1.093 OPS, in seven games entering Monday night, is nothing short of amazing.
All season the Cubs’ depth has been tested and has come up short. Minor league stints for Happ, Albert Almora Jr. and David Bote tell part of that story. But Hoerner — and Caratini — aren’t included in that narrative.
If there is one player who has showed signs of a breakout, in limited duty, it’s Hoerner. Either way, a short-term loss at shortstop hasn’t derailed the Cubs, at least not yet. Time will tell what happens at first base, but the pennant race won’t slow down for the walking wounded. “Next man up” isn’t just a cliché. It’s the Cubs’ slogan right now.
“It is what it is,” Castellanos said. “The last person that’s going to play the victim is me. We have to make the most of it, no ifs, ands or buts about it.”
Maddon added: “Nobody is going to cry for you. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you, maybe outside of your mom, just a little bit.”
Night No. 1 without Rizzo went just fine as Kyle Schwarber and Jason Heyward picked up the slack in the Cubs’ 8-2 win over the Reds. That, more than anything, was the message coming from the Cubs locker room. It can’t be up to just the fill-ins for Rizzo and Baez. A team effort is required to cover for missing stars.
Reds vs. Cubs – Game Recap – September 16, 2019
Nicholas Castellanos added a two-run double in the eighth inning as Chicago moved a season-high 14 games above .500. Castellanos is the third right-handed hitter in MLB history to record at least 55 doubles and 25 homers in a season, joining Hall of Famers Hank Greenberg (1934) and Joe Medwick (1937).
Chicago has outscored its opponents 59-18 during its win streak.
The Cubs (82-68) pulled within a half-game of Washington for the top spot in the wild-card standings and stayed two games back of NL Central-leading St. Louis, which held off the Nationals for a 4-2 win.
Steve Cishek, Alec Mills (1-0), Rowan Wick, Kyle Ryan and David Phelps combined for 5 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of an ineffective Cole Hamels. It was Mills’ first major league win in his 17th big league appearance.
It was Chicago’s first game since Anthony Rizzo had an MRI that showed the big first baseman had a moderate lateral right ankle sprain sustained during Sunday’s 16-6 victory over Pittsburgh.
Rizzo will wear a walking boot for five to seven days, casting doubt on his availability for the rest of the season.
“We’re not shutting any doors, but we’re realistic that this is a legitimate injury that under ideal circumstances would take some time to heal,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said.
Cincinnati (70-81) had won three of four, but it went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position and left 11 runners on base.
Kevin Gausman (3-9) pitched two innings for the Reds in his first start since he was claimed off waivers from the Braves last month. The right-hander has been a starter for most of his career, and manager David Bell wanted to give him another look in that spot while giving the rest of his rotation an extra day of rest.
Gausman got into trouble in the first when Chicago put runners on first and second with one out. Schwarber then connected for the second straight day, driving a 2-2 pitch deep to center.
It was No. 37 for Schwarber, the highest total for a lefty batter for the Cubs since Hall of Famer Billy Williams hit 37 in 1972.
Schwarber also robbed pinch hitter Derek Dietrich with a stellar grab on his liner to left in the fourth. Phillip Ervin‘s sacrifice fly cut Chicago’s lead to 3-2, but Cishek struck out Eugenio Suarez looking to end the inning.
The Reds promoted infielder Christian Colon from Triple-A Louisville. Colon was hit by a pitch while batting for Gausman in the third and scored on Curt Casali‘s bases-loaded walk. It was Colon’s first major league appearance since June 20, 2017, for Miami against Washington.
Reds: SS Jose Iglesias (sore back) was out of the starting lineup. Bell said Iglesias likely will start Tuesday. … SS Freddy Galvis missed his second straight game with left knee soreness. Bell said Galvis doesn’t have meniscus or ligament damage and won’t be out long-term.
Cubs: Closer Craig Kimbrel (right elbow inflammation) is scheduled to throw a simulated game Tuesday and could return this weekend. … SS Addison Russell (concussion protocol) hit off a tee before the game.
RHP Sonny Gray (10-7, 2.80 ERA) faces RHP Yu Darvish (6-6, 3.97 ERA) on Tuesday night in a matchup of two of baseball’s best pitchers since the All-Star break. Gray is 4-1 with a 1.29 ERA in his last eight starts for Cincinnati. Darvish struck out 14 while pitching six scoreless innings in Chicago’s 4-1 victory at San Diego on Thursday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
White Sox shut down RHP Giolito with lat strain
The team said there are no long-term concerns.
“For me, it just sucks because I wanted to finish what I started. But at the same time, it is what it is,” Giolito told reporters. “It just was kind of a random thing that happened. That’s it.”
Giolito, who was slated to pitch against the Twins on Tuesday, ends his bounce-back 2019 season with 14 wins, 228 strikeouts, two shutouts and a 3.41 ERA.
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