Sweetwater Valley Little League’s 11-under all-star team ended its post-season tournament run with a 6-0 loss to Section 6 champion Allied Gardens in the Sub-Division III South championship game on July 24.
While the setback incurred at Fletcher Hills Little League was obviously disappointing to manager John Rose and his players and their respective families, it was also a moment to celebrate.
No other Sweetwater Valley team had ever gotten that far in the last 20 years, according to Rose.
The team finished its all-star run with a final 8-3 record, with coveted District 42 and Section 7 championship banners in tow.
“We ended our season facing the one incurable dilemma in baseball — a dialed-in pitcher,” Rose said. “We tip our cap to a great performance by a worthy opponent who held our boys to four hits and no runs for the first time this year.”
The season may be over but soon it will be time to reflect on a season of unsurpassed achievement.
The team’s all-star tournament odyssey began more than 40 days ago when it was initially selected.
The team actually began play on July 2. Over the course of that span, Rose noted that his team played at a high level in the ocean fog of Imperial Beach, the mid-summer heat of Imperial Valley and monsoonal rain showers pelting San Diego’s East County region.
Sweetwater Valley generated 100 runs in 11 games and four times played in the pressure of an elimination game, winning three times.
Rose said the latter attribute should “serve the team well” in the future.
It appears we haven’t heard the last from this bunch quite yet.
In winning the District 42 championship banner, Sweetwater Valley slammed seven home runs in an opening 10-1 victory against Eastlake, run-ruled Park View by a 13-0 score in four innings in its next game and rebounded from a 13-5 loss to Eastlake in its third game to win the district title with a 9-7 return engagement win against Eastlake.
Rose noted the championship victory came at “our house” — the Sweetwater Valley Little League complex.
After winning the district championship, Sweetwater Valley’s plucky all-stars took their winning act to the desert confines of Imperial Valley to compete in the Section 7 tournament at Brawley Little League.
Sweetwater Valley dispatched its first opponent, District 41 champion Alpine American, by a 16-5 score in 100-degree heat (even though the game was played at night).
The District 42 champions then had to reach deep inside themselves to win a 7-6 match-up against District 22 champion Calexico in extra innings to advance to the championship game, where they once again faced Calexico.
Sweetwater Valley prevailed in a high scoring 13-8 affair.
With two championship banners in hand, Sweetwater Valley then marched proudly into the Sub-Division III South tournament being held at Fletcher Hills Little League.
Adversity struck in the team’s first game after a 6-4 loss to Section 6 champion Allied Gardens. In order to fight their way back into contention for the sub-division title — and a trip to the Southern California state finals — the Section 7 champions would be required to win two elimination games to get back to the championship game.
If successful, Sweetwater Valley would have to defeat Allied Gardens twice in the double-elimination tournament to spirit away the championship banner.
Sweetwater Valley almost came full circle.
The Chula Vista team eliminated Section 8 champion Ocean View, 12-6, with a come-from-behind 10-run run fifth inning on July 22. The next day, a nine-run fifth inning outburst resulted in an 11-8 comeback victory against Section 8 champion Vineyard.
But Sweetwater Valley, riding a two-game winning streak with renewed resolve, ran into a pitching buzz saw in the rematch against Allied Gardens.
“The Allied Gardens coaches, players, and fans were some of the classiest people we have run into this year — and we congratulate them,” Rose said. “I am also proud that our boys managed to pretty much hold it together and kept fighting to the end of a frustrating loss.”
In an e-mail to players, coaches, parents, and friends, Rose personally recognized and thanked everyone for what the team accomplished this year.
“I appreciate that these all-star seasons are always fraught with stressful emotions and unique family dynamics,” Rose wrote in the e-mail. “Yet each of you invested an immense amount of your families’ time, treasure, and effort to make this happen. The boys were at practices and games well fed, mentally ready, and physically rested. Your efforts to keep positive, (be) supportive and have your players ready to play ball really paid off.”
Rose also wanted to recognize the “great work” that coaches Brad Nakano and Matt Sherard brought to the team.
“There were many hours of scouting, practicing, and long strategy sessions,” the SVLL manager explained. “We committed together at our first meeting to make decisions solely based on what put our team in the best position to win games – regardless of personal affiliations or relational dynamics. This required an immense amount of time collecting and processing statistical data by Brad. I believe our results clearly prove the wisdom of the choices that were made.”
And for the kids who produced on the field? Their names are surely destined to be immortalized on the back of a T-shirt some day.
They include Isaac Amaya, Felix Ikeda, Benjamin Kettlehake, Wyatt Lannom, Sabino Muro, Eric Nakano, Kaden Nichols, Eric Parker, Hayden Pritchard, Jake Rose, Adrian Sanchez and Tyler Sherard.
Collectively, their names spell champions.
Sweetwater Valley Little League
2013 All-Star Tournament
District 42 Championships
Sweetwater Valley 10, Eastlake 1
Sweetwater Valley 13, Park View 0
Eastlake 13, Sweetwater Valley 5
Sweetwater Valley 9, Eastlake 7
Section 7 Championships
Sweetwater Valley 16, Alpine American 5
Sweetwater Valley 7, Calexico 6
Sweetwater 13, Calexico 8
California Sub-Division III South Championships
Allied Gardens 6, Sweetwater Valley 4
Sweetwater Valley 12, Ocean View 6
Sweetwater 11, Vineyard 8
Allied Gardens 6, Sweetwater Valley 0
Finish: second place