Members of the New Orleans-area Eastbank team celebrate after defeating Curacao 8-0 Aug. 25 for the Little League World Series championship in Williamsport, Pa. Nine of the 13 members of the Louisiana team attend Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans: Reece Roussel, St. Charles Borromeo; Ryan Darrah and Stan Wiltz, Christian Brothers; Egan Prather and Peyton Spadoni, St. Edward the Confessor; Alton Shorts, St. Rita, Harahan; Gavin Berry, St. Ann; and Ryder Planchard and William Andrade, Holy Cross. The team was coached by Catholic high school alums Scott Frazier, Archbishop Rummel; Kevin Johnson, De La Salle; and Dan Abadie, Jesuit. Also on the title team were Marshall Louque, Lutcher; Connor Perrot, Kenner Discovery; Jeffrey Curtis, John Curtis Christian; and Derek DeLatte, Ridgewood.
In mid-April, at a high school baseball game at Kirsch-Rooney Stadium, a baseball coach told a reporter his team was this good.
“I think you need to keep an eye on us,” said Scott Frazier, the coach of the East Bank Little Leaguers. “We have a great chance to get to Williamsport.”
Frazier said his message to his players on the first day of practice was to the point: “Waco (Texas, site of the Southwest Regional) wasn’t good enough anymore. Let’s go to Williamsport and win the Little League World Series.”
So, there they were on a Sunday afternoon in northern Pennsylvania, dominating.
The East Bankers, who call River Ridge their home base, became the first team since 2001 to lose their first game and then win the U.S. championship and the Little League World Series championship.
Against the best the United States and the world had to offer, East Bank won its last three games by a combined score of 27-5. Those five runs allowed were scored by Hawaii in the sixth and final inning.
During the World Series, the players received encouragement from LSU head coach Ed Orgeron and Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees had an extremely poignant message. They were living his dream, said Brees, who said he always wanted to play in the Little League World Series.
Frazier, an Archbishop Rummel grad, said 10 of the 13 boys attend Catholic schools. Reece Roussel, who is a seventh grader at St. Charles Borromeo School in Destrehan, slammed a World Series record 17 hits in 23 plate appearances.
Roussel mimicked his team, seemingly oblivious to the pressure.
“His approach is pretty simplistic,” said Frazier. “See ball, hit ball.”
Marshall Louque had seven doubles, also a Little League World Series record.
President Trump officially extended an invitation to the World Series champions to visit the White House. WGNO reporter Robert O’Shields captured the moment on videotape. Frazier choked up as he told his team and parents they were headed to the White House.
“We have been to the governor’s mansion,” said Frazier.
And, now 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
After a 5-2 loss to Hawaii on Aug. 16, East Bank regrouped quickly, winning six consecutive games.
“We are from Louisiana,” said Frazier. “We are resilient. We do not panic. Our pitching and defense are outstanding, and so is our baseball IQ. The entire experience was beyond my wildest imagination.”
The New Orleans metro area has its first Little League World Series champions. And, if the world didn’t know the location of River Ridge, Louisiana, they do now.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at email@example.com.