California’s El Segundo is bringing home the Little League World Series championship title after a 6-5 victory over the team from Willemstad, Curaçao, on Sunday.
The thrilling game ended with a walk-off home run from Louis Lappe, who was given a perfect setup from the booth by ESPN broadcaster Karl Ravech.
With the score tied in the sixth inning, Lappe stepped to the plate.
"Curaçao has not allowed a home run at the World Series,” Ravech said in an announcer jinx for the ages. Almost instantly, Lappe, the series' home run leader, sent one flying for the win.
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California has been in the championship game 24 times and now has its eighth title. The region has the most victories by any U.S. team but hadn't won since 2011.
The team had some of the best bats in the tournament, including Lappe and Brody Brooks. En route to the U.S. title on Saturday, Lappe had five RBIs, including a three-run homer as California beat Texas 6-1.
But Curaçao didn't go down without a fight. Having appeared in the LLWS championship four times, the team was hoping for its first win since 2004 — its only title. Last year, the team made it to the championship game and lost to Hawaii 13-3. Five of its players returned from last year's disappointment, the most in the tournament.
Down 5-1 in the top of the fifth, Nasir El-Ossais showed the grit of a seasoned veteran. With two outs, he tied the game 5-5 on a dramatic grand slam to right field off Max Baker.
Curaçao ties the LLWS Championship with a GRAND SLAM in the fifth! pic.twitter.com/OoRmeqQGQo
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) August 27, 2023
"I am sweating right now, and not from the heat," El-Ossais' dad said after the play, adding that emotions were at an all-time high.
Curaçao overcame a big deficit thanks to El-Ossais, but California's pitching strength and defense won it. Brooks, a shortstop and strong pitcher, tied the World Series record by scoring 13 runs. On Sunday, he had a single and finished the tournament with 12 hits and three home runs.
— Little League (@LittleLeague) August 27, 2023
In a tear-filled postgame interview, El Segundo manager Danny Boehle said he told his team "the game's not over." He was surprised Curaçao pitched to Lappe, who said he was close with the Curaçao players and offered kind words after hitting the winning home run.
There was plenty of sportsmanship all over the stadium in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. "Great job, keep your head up," Lappe recalled telling the opposing team.
California also posed for photos with Japan after the victory:
Sportsmanship at its finest
Japan congratulated California on their LLWS championship win 👏 pic.twitter.com/mUzX539VVn
— ESPN (@espn) August 27, 2023
El Segundo's players will go back to school soon, and they'll have plenty to share with their classmates. Throughout the tournament, they were sent positive messages from the likes of Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James and multiple Los Angeles Dodgers stars.
On Sept. 10, they will be celebrated in their hometown with a parade.