The Little League World Series is back on in South Williamsport, Pa., and the first salvo has been fired for teams taking the long qualification path to the Keystone State.
This year’s Little League World Series tournament is scheduled Aug. 19-29 for 16 United States-based teams. There will not be an international field this year — the first time since 1975.
Before domestic teams can get there, however, they will have to successfully navigate elimination play at the district, section, divisional and regional levels.
The Little League West Region championship tournament is scheduled Aug. 8-14 in San Bernardino.
The journey starts at the district level. Championship games wrapped up last weekend at Park View Little League for California District 42.
Newly-minted champions included Park View in the 10U and 11U divisions and Eastlake in the 12U division.
Overall, Park View spirited away three championship banners in district all-star play this summer by previously capturing the Junior Division (14U) title.
Southwest Little League won the Intermediate (50/70) Division (13U) championship while Sweetwater Valley won the Senior Division (16U) title unopposed.
Only the 12U division leads to the Little League World Series. The 10U, 11U, 13U, 14U and 16U divisions will end at the state level this year.
Eastlake looks to make some noise in the next round after outscoring District 42 competition by a monstrous 38-1 run-differential with three shutouts in its perfect 4-0 showing.
The California Section 7 tournament for that age-group is scheduled to start this weekend at El Centro Little League. It will be hot, perhaps as hot as Eastlake’s bats.
“It’s a very exciting time for our league and our 12U All-Stars,” Eastlake Little League president Alis Nicolaus said. “To have the opportunity to compete within such a great district of leagues is a tough task on its own, but to come out as victors really solidifies how hard these players and coaches have worked.
“With the loss of Little League play last year due to the pandemic there was a lot of excitement this year when we finally hit the fields after such a long pause, especially since our group of 12s last year was a very solid group and had potential to make a run of their own. This year I think our players and coaches are not only playing for themselves but for them as well since they lost their opportunity due to the pandemic.
“What I love about this team is the camaraderie, the commitment they have to each other, the grit, humility and the passion each one of them brings to each practice and game. We have so many outstanding players on this team it is hard to pick out individuals since they have all contributed in some fashion to their winning streak. Up and down the lineup we have great pitching, big bats and solid defense.
“Ethan Dang and Liam Lee have been lights out on the mound. Isaac Rodriguez, Nico Sanchez and Xachito MacFarland brought their big bats out during the D42 tournament. That is not to say the rest of the team haven’t had highlights of their own. Many being on the base paths when those big bats exploded or making outstanding defensive plays behind our pitchers. Each player should be very proud of their play thus far.
“Our coaching staff has been outstanding as well. Randy Whitney and his two assistant coaches Mar Reyes and Josh Aguirre have put in a lot of time and commitment of their own to ensure the team’s success.
The 16 teams that will compete in this year’s Little League World Series will qualify through eight regional tournaments. The top two teams at each regional will qualify.
There will be no World Series events in the Junior Division (14U) and Senior Division (16U) age groups and for the Little League Intermediate (50/70) Division.
All these tournaments will finish at the state level.
The Little League International Board of Directors has approved several items to put into place for this year’s event. These include COVID-19 health safety protocols, limited spectator seating and the cancellation of all regional and world series championship tournaments in teenage-based divisions.
There will be no World Series events in the Junior Division (14U) and Senior Division (16U) age groups and for the Little League Intermediate (50/70) Division.
All these tournaments will finish at the state level.
The board’s plan includes a series of COVID-19 mitigation measures to host these tournaments in a healthy, responsible environment.
“Little League puts the health, well-being, and safety of all players and volunteers first and we are looking forward to hosting the Little League Regional and World Series tournaments with that aim this summer,” said Dr. Daniel Lueders, Commission Chair, Little League International Board of Directors member, and UPMC Sports Medicine physician and assistant professor.
“The commission’s recommendations reflect the most current CDC protocols, as well as direct input from state and local public health authorities. The advice of the leading public health, pediatric medicine, epidemiology, mental health and operations experts on the commission prioritize the health and safety of the players, volunteers, family and fans above all else. We are confident that the implementation of these recommendations by Little League International will permit a safe and successful competition this summer and preserve the spirit and the experiences that make those events so special.”
Spectator seating will be allocated for family members and a limited number of individuals associated with the participating teams.
All players and coaches will undergo COVID-19 testing prior to and upon arrival at their tournament location and will have significantly limited contact from other individuals until negative tests can be confirmed.
Coaches and managers are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated and, should a vaccine be available for age-appropriate players, vaccination would be also recommended for players if appropriate, but not required.
There is a proposal to expand the U.S. division at the Little League World Series to 20 teams, beginning in 2022.
Little League Baseball will celebrate its 75th anniversary next year.
The Little League Softball World Series is scheduled Aug. 11-18 in Greenville, N.C. and will include 10 teams. It will expand to 12 teams next year.
California District 42 Little League
Saturday, July 10 at Park View Little League
10U Division: Park View 8, Eastlake 4
11U Division: Park View 14, Eastlake 0
12U Division: Eastlake 4, Sweetwater Valley 0
Intermediate (50/70) Division (13U): Southwest defeated Sweetwater Valley, 2-0 in best-of-three series
Junior Division (14U): Park View 4, Southwest 2
Senior Division (16U): Sweetwater Valley (uncontested)
California Section 7 Championship
Intermediate (50/70) Division (13U): Rancho de Oro (District 41) 18, Southwest (District 42) 1
Junior Division (14U): TBD
Senior Division (16U): Lemon Grove (District 66) 5, Sweetwater Valley (District 42) 4
District 42 Little League All-Star Tournaments Completed! Next up, Sectional Games
The California District 42 Little League all-star tournaments wrapped up this past Saturday with three divisions crowning 2021 champions.
“This is quite an accomplishment considering that across the nation this time last year there were no youth sports activities taking place due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” district administrator Ernie Lucero said. “This year it was quite a different story as leagues across San Diego and Imperial counties were participating in tournaments.”
This year, Eastlake Little League captured the title in the coveted 12U division that has the potential of reaching the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa. Eastlake will have to compete in the next phase of the road to Williamsport by taking on three other teams in the California Section 7 tournament beginning this Saturday at El Centro Little League.
Park View Little League was also crowned district champions in the 8-10 year old division and the 9-11 year old division. Earlier in the week, their Junior Division was also crowned district champions.
The 10U district champions will play in the sectional tournament hosted by Imperial Beach Little League. The 11U district champions will play at host Jamul Little League, while the Junior Division district champions will play at host Spring Valley Little League.
“District 42 thanks Chula Vista American and Park View little leagues for hosting this year’s tournament,” Lucero said. “Their board of directors and league volunteers did an outstanding job getting the fields ready for play. We also thank the all-volunteer umpire crews that staffed each of our games.”
Game schedules and brackets are available on the district Facebook page, California District 42 Little League, or their website at http://tshq.bluesombrero.com/cad42. Good luck to all the teams!
Sweetwater ValleyLittle League had a good run in summer all-star tournament play
Sweetwater Valley Little League didn’t necessarily have a blockbuster showing in all-star tournament play this year, but it was a decent showing as it turned out.
SVLL finished runner-up in the California Section 7 Senior Division (16U) championship tournament and also finished runner-up in the California District 42 12U Division finals while capturing the Minor Division championship in the district’s preceding Tournament of Champions.
“We represented Sweetwater Valley well,” league president Arturo Maldonado said.
SVLL fielded its first Senior Division all-star team in quite a while and the team proved highly competitive on the field representing District 42. SVLL pounded Santana National, the District 41 representative, 24-2 in the opening game at the section tournament, which took place July 2-7 at Spring Valley Little League.
Sweetwater Valley, which was managed by Todd Anderson, continued its winning ways with an 8-3 win over District 66 champion Lemon Grove to advance to the winner’s bracket final. Meanwhile, Lemon Grove defeated Santana National, 20-5, in the loser’s bracket final to draw a championship game rematch with the District 42 champions.
Lemon Grove won 7-6 to force a double-elimination game, which the District 66 champions also won by a score of 5-4 to advance to the Southern California division tournament.
“We beat Lemon Grove the first time but lost an extra-inning game the second time we played them,” Maldonado said. “We ended up playing the ‘if’-game. That gave them the right to play in the state championship.
“We represented ourselves well, we just fell short. It was a good series for them. It was the first time in a while that we had a Senior Division team.”
Eastlake, Sweetwater Valley and Park View have all rode the 12U division all the way to the Little League World Series since 2009, and this year’s championship game pairing featured an Eastlake-Sweetwater Valley matchup.
Eastlake won the district title by a score of 4-0 on the strength of a three-run home run in the first inning by Nico Sanchez.
“We lost to a good Eastlake team,” Maldonado said. “It was a great battle. We made one bad pitch. We were down three runs in the first inning. We played well.
“It was the first time Eastlake had been tested in the tournament. They had run-ruled the other teams. Sweetwater Valley represented itself well. We gave them the best game they had in the tournament.”
SVLL, managed by Ray Muro, opened tourney play with a 12-0 win over South Bay Little League, but lost its second game, 6-1, to Chula Vista American. The Bonita-based team rebounded with three consecutive wins — 26-0 over Southwest Little League, 3-0 over Park View and 4-2 over Chula Vista American – to reach the championship game.
Standout players included Cole Margetts, Kensen Johnson, Jackson Hernandez and Gio Muro.
“Jackson was our ace,” Maldonado said.
Sweetwater Valley went undefeated in TOC play with 10-0 and 15-0 wins over Luckie Waller and South Bay, respectively, to start the tournament. SVLL shaded Park View, 9-8, in walk-off fashion in the semifinal game on June 26.
Trailing by a run, Jonathon Maldonado tied the game with a hit for Sweetwater Valley. Stryder Tran, who took third base on the play, then scored the winning run on a passed ball.
“It was a very good 9/10-year-old team,” the elder Maldonado said. “They battled in that game against Park View to play in the championship game against Eastlake.”
Sweetwater Valley, managed by Brian Bailey, clinched its perfect 4-0 tournament record with a 12-1 victory in the final.
Julian Lopez was the standout pitcher for the TOC champions.
South County’s four Major League Baseball draft picks have not been lost on younger players in the region.
Eastlake High School graduates Marcelo Mayer, Grant Holman and Ben Ramirez, along with Bonita Vista’s Daniel McElveny, were selected in the top 13 rounds of this week’s 20-round draft.
All have Little League backgrounds, with Mayer and Holman playing at Eastlake Little League, Ramirez at Park View Little League and McElveny at Chula Vista American Little League.
Holman helped guide Eastlake to the United States Division championship at the 2013 Little League World Series.
“It’s exciting that there were so many players,” Maldonado said. “The whole South Bay is electrified by the boys who have been drafted. It’s exciting to see the boys do so well at their schools and get the recognition they deserve. It’s an amazing accomplishment.”
Some local former draft picks have already started to leave their mark in the pro baseball ranks.
Former Sweetwater Valley Little League standout Daniel Camarena made waves by hitting a grand slam in a July 8 game against the Washington Nationals to become the first pitcher to accomplish the feat since 1985 and the first pitcher to hit a grand slam for his first career hit since 1898.
He is the second Padres pitcher to hit a grand slam since Mike Corkins did so in a 1970 game against the Cincinnati Reds.
Camarena, who was drafted in the 20th round of the 2011 MLB draft, had previously played for the Yankees, San Francisco Giants and Minnesota Twins organizations at the minor league level before joining the Padres last season.
Camarena, a Bonita native, was 3-2 with the Padres’ Triple-A farm team in El Paso before being called up to San Diego. He’s appeared in three games for the Friars with a 0-0 record, 7.94 ERA and five strikeouts in 5.2 innings.
The former Cathedral Catholic High School product is joined on the Padres’ active roster by fellow San Diegan Joe Musgrove, who prepped at Grossmont High School.
“It’s awesome to have an alumnus from Sweetwater Valley to play at such an upper level,” Maldonado said. “We have a couple actually – Cody Poteet and Daniel Schneeman.”
Poteet, who prepped at Christian High School, was originally taken in the 27th round of the 2012 MLB draft by the Washington Nationals and, after electing to attend UCLA, was drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 MLB draft by the Miami Marlins.
The former SVLL hurler received his first MLB call-up on May 21 by the Marlins. Since then, he’s posted a 2-3 pitching record with a 4.99 earned-run average and 32 strikeouts in 30.2 innings on the mound.
Poteet, who signed with Miami for $488,700, won his MLB debut over the Arizona Diamondbacks after giving up two earned runs in five innings. He also recorded his first MLB strikeout in that May 21 contest.
Schneeman, who played two seasons at BYU, is currently playing in the Cleveland Indians organization after being drafted in the 33rd round of the 2018 draft. He’s appeared in 26 games for Lake County in the High-A Central League and 10 games for Akron in the Double-A Northeast League.
The former Bonita Vista standout was batting .244 between the teams with seven home runs and 19 RBI in 36 games.
See the sights on Route 66
California District 66 Little League’s boundaries also cover some parts of South County. The district chartered eight member leagues this year: Lemon Grove, Twin Hills, Spring Valley, Valley de Oro, Encanto, National City American, Las Palmas and San Diego American-Memorial Park.
National City American chartered teams in the youngest divisions (T-ball and Caps).
“San Diego Southeastern was the only league in the district that did not charter after the reopening of youth sports,” District 66 administrator Roland Slade said. “They plan to come back next season.”
Slade said though the season was shortened, the district was still able to get in nearly the regular complement of a normal 20-game season for each team in each league.
“This year we really saw communities come together for the children,” Slade explained. “It was truly refreshing. I look forward to next season as more younger families are finding their way back to Little League Baseball and Little League Softball. I think that is coming from our community- based approach. Little League Baseball and Little League Softball is about building communities with sports — baseball and softball — as a tool.”
California District 41 Little League serves 15 member leagues: Alpine American Little League, El Cajon National Little League, El Cajon Western Little League, Fletcher Hills Little League, Jamul Little League, Julian Little League, Lakeside American Little League, Lakeside National Little League, Mountain Empire Little League, Rancho de Oro Little League, Rios Canyon Little League, Santana National Little League, Santee Pioneer Little League, Singing Hills Little League and West Hills Little League.
Each district has its own qualification process to determine its all-star champion. Teams may participate in round-robin pool play while also participating in double-elimination bracket play.
Championship games wrapped up last weekend.
District 66 champions for the 2021 season included Lemon Grove (10U and Senior Division), Valley do Oro Little League (11U and Intermediate Division) and Spring Valley Little League (12U and Junior Division).
“This year’s all-star tournament play has been top notch,” Slade said. “I can see the influence of the Padres, specifically Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado. There is an added level of enthusiasm. The stutter step on a home run trot is obvious.”
Parade of champions
Lemon Grove finished 6-0 to capture the 10U district title with on overpowering offensive showing. Twin Hills finished 4-2 in its six games while Spring Valley and Valley de Oro both finished 2-3. Encanto finished 1-2 while San Diego American finished 0-2. Las Palmas finished 0-3.
Lemon Grove defeated visiting Valley de Oro, 25-1, on June 29, then tacked on a 15-1 victory against Las Palmas on July 3 and a 13-4 win at Spring Valley on July 5.
Lemon Grove swept Twin Hills by scores of 20-2 on July 8 and 15-3 on July 10.
The newly crowned District 66 champions advance to the Section 7 tournament against champions from District 41, District 42 and District 22 that will take place July 17-21 at District 42 Imperial Beach Little League.
Valley de Oro defeated Spring Valley by scores of 3-2 on July 3 and 5-1 on July 5 to capture the teams’ best-of-three 11U division championship series.
Valley de Oro advances to the Section 7 championship series July 17-21 hosted by District 41 Jamul Little League.
The 12U Little League Division included four teams in the finals: Spring Valley, Encanto, Lemon Grove and Twin Hills. The teams finished in that order, with Spring Valley boasting a 7-1 record in eight games played while Encanto posted a 4-3 record in seven games played. Lemon Grove finished 2-4 in six games played while Twin Hills finished 0-5.
Spring Valley suffered a 4-0 loss to Encanto on July 8 but finished the tournament strong with three consecutive wins.
Spring Valley defeated Lemon Grove, 10-0, on July 9, then swept Encanto in a two-game double elimination championship series, winning 3-2 on July 10 and 4-2 on July 11.
Spring Valley now advances to the Section 7 tournament hosted July 17-21 by District 22 El Centro Little League.
The Junior Division (14U) championship series included a best-of-three series between Spring Valley and Encanto. Spring Valley swept two games to claim the division title by scores of 15-13 on July 8 and 21-2 on July 10.
Spring Valley advances to sectional play July 16-21 at Spring Valley Little League.
Lemon Grove swept Spring Valley by scores of 11-2 on June 24 and 9-3 on June 26 to claim this year’s district Senior Division (16U) championship.
Lemon Grove advanced to sectional play July 2-7 at Spring Valley Little League.
The District 66 Intermediate Division (50/70) champion (13U) was determined through a best-of-three series between Lemon Grove and Valley De Oro.
Valley De Oro captured the series two games to one as the teams battled through a decisive third game.
All three games proved high scoring affairs. Lemon Grove won the first game, 13-11, on June 21. Valley De Oro stormed back to win the next two games — 11-10 on June 23 and 13-12 on June 26 — to capture the division championship.
Valley De Oro advanced to the Section 7 championship tournament July 1-5 at District 42 Sweetwater Valley Little League.
District 41 East County champions included Rancho de Oro (10U, 11U and 13U/Intermediate Division), Fletcher Hills Little League (12U) and Santana National (Senior Division).
Alpine American Little League hosted the 10U all-star tournament. Six teams participated in double-elimination bracket play. Rancho de Oro completed tourney play 3-0 to win this year’s championship banner.
Rancho de Oro opened tourney play with a 10-2 win over Lakeside American on July 6 after Lakeside National had defeated Rios Canyon by a score of 22-2 on July 5.
Rancho de Oro defeated Fletcher Hills (11-8 winners over Alpine on July 6) by a score of 7-5 in the winner’s bracket final on July 8. Previously, Alpine American eliminated Lakeside National by a score of 6-3 in a loser’s bracket game on July 8.
Fletcher Hills shut out Alpine American, 10-0, in the loser’s bracket final on July 9 to gain a berth in the July 10 championship game.
Rancho de Oro completed its championship run to this year’s division title with an 18-1 win over Fletcher Hills to advance to sectional play.
Two teams participated in the 11U all-star best-of-three championship series at Rancho de Oro Little League. Rancho de Oro swept the series against Fletcher Hills by scores of 12-3 on July 10 and 10-0 on July 11.
Fletcher Hills and Rancho de Oro little leagues hosted the 12U all-star tournament.
Fletcher Hills completed the six-team double-elimination bracket with an undefeated 4-0 record.
Fletcher Hills faced off tourney play July 6 with a 9-6 win over Alpine American, then blanked Rancho de Oro, 12-0, on July 7.
Fletcher Hills continued its winning ways with a 7-2 win over Singing Hills on July 9.
Singing Hills defeated West Hills, 5-4, in an elimination game on July 10 to rematch with Fletcher Hills in the championship game on July 11.
Fletcher Hills made sure there would be no double-elimination game with a 16-2 win to add an exclamation point to district play.
The next level
Section 7 tournament play in the Junior Division is scheduled to start July 16 and conclude July 21 at Spring Valley Little League. District representatives are from District 22 (TBD), District 42 (Park View Little League) and District 66 (Spring Valley Little League).
The winner advances to the Southern California divisional tournament hosted by Santa Anita District 17 Little League.
The Senior Division tournament took place July 2-7 at Spring Valley Little League.
District champions from District 41 (Santana National), District 42 (Sweetwater Valley) and District 66 (Lemon Grove) participated.
Sweetwater Valley defeated Santana National, 24-2, to blast off the event on July 2 while Sweetwater Valley defeated Lemon Grove, 8-3, on July 3.
Lemon Grove defeated Santana National, 20-5, in a loser’s bracket game on July 5 to meet Sweetwater Valley on July 6. Lemon Grove returned the favor by defeating the District 42 champion by a score of 7-6.
The teams met in a double-elimination contest on July 7. Lemon Grove won another nail-biter over Sweetwater Valley, 5-4, to capture the section banner.
Lemon Grove advances to the Southern California division tournament hosted by San Diego District 32 Little League.
The Intermediate Division sectional included three teams: Rancho de Oro (District 41), Southwest (District 42) and Valley de Oro (District 66). Games took place July 1-5 at Sweetwater Valley Little League.
Rancho de Oro swept through the competition with three commanding victories. The District 41 champions opened the tournament with an 18-1 win over Valley de Oro and swept Southwest by scores of 14-4 on July 2 and 18-1 on July 5 to advance to the Southern California divisional tournament hosted by District 32.
Southwest eliminated Valley de Oro by a score of 24-8 on July 3 in a loser’s bracket contest to gain a rematch against Rancho de Oro.
Tournament of Champions
Prior to all-star tournament play, District 41 crowned its annual Tournament of Champions winners.
This year’s TOC champions included Lakeside National (Little Stars), Fletcher Hills (Minor Division) and Alpine American (Major Division and Intermediate Division).
District 66 elected not to pursue a Tournament of Champions this year, according to Slade.
“We did not have a TOC this year; instead, we chose to run our regular season an additional two weeks,” he said. “That way all the players would get in nearly 20 games.”