For the first time in four years, a team other than from Southern California will represent the Western Region at this year’s Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.
Park View Little League’s 12U all-stars, this year’s Southern California champions, remained in contention to do so until the team met elimination at the hands of Rocklin’s Tri-City Little League, the Northern California champion, in a nationally telecast game on Aug. 8 in an Bernardino.
Tri-City’s timely 7-5 victory sent the Chula Vista team home and allowed the NorCal champs to play two more games in the six-team regional tournament.
Tri-City eliminated Nevada state champion Silverado West Little League by an 11-0 score on Aug. 10 to advance to meet Honolulu Little League, the Hawaii state champion, in the regional championship game on Aug. 11.
Hawaii punched its ticket to the 2018 Little League World Series by topping Tri-City, 11-2, to become the first team from the island state to advance to South Williamsport since Waipio Little League from Waipahu accomplished the feat in 2010.
Honolulu Little League was the only team at this year’s Western Regional tournament to finish undefeated, going 4-0 with victories against state champions from Arizona, Utah, Nevada and Northern California.
Park View, which never met Hawaii in this year’s tournament, looked like it might be the team to represent the West at this year’s international world championship tournament after clubbing Tri-City by a 16-8 score in the teams’ opener on Aug. 5.
But Park View saw its bats muffled in an ensuing 5-3 loss to Nevada the following morning to drop to the often not-so-kind elimination bracket.
The Green Monsters staved off elimination with a rousing 9-5 win over Tucson’s Sunnyside Little League on Aug. 7.
However, forced to play four consecutive games amid 100-plus temperatures proved to be very unkind for Park View, which had taken an undefeated 11-0 record into the Aug. 5-11 San Bernardino tournament.
Untimely errors and unproductive at-bats did the Green Monsters in against Tri-City in the teams’ elimination game rematch. Park View batters struck out 10 times while stranding seven runners on base. The Green Monsters also had two runners thrown out at the plate.
The NorCal champs scored four runs in the top of the first inning and never trailed afterward in turning the tables on their SoCal rivals.
Nathan Erickson, who threw 5.2 perfect innings of perfect ball the night before in a 6-0 win over Utah, celebrated his 13th birthday with a big game at the plate for the Rocklin squad, going three-for-three with three runs scored.
Tyler Allen went three-for-four with a run scored and RBI while teammate Gavin Correia drove in two runs with a single to help stoke the NorCal team’s first inning rally.
Park View scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning to trim the score of 4-3. But Tri-City kept adding runs on the scoreboard to the consternation of the Southern California champions.
Tri-City expanded its lead to 5-3 by scoring an additional run in the top of the second inning and tacked on another run in the top of the third inning to lead 6-4.
The Green Monsters got one run back in the bottom of the second inning but Tri-City zipped ahead, 7-4, with yet one more run in the top of the fourth inning.
Tri-City was playing its second consecutive elimination game after dropping its tourney opener to Park View.
Pitching was obviously stretched to start the game for both teams. Matt Bjornstad started for Park View and was lifted with one out in the top of the second inning.
He was charged with five runs while allowing four hits and striking out three batters.
Bjornstad had pitched earlier in the tournament, striking out six batters in 2.1 innings in the tournament opener. But he was not as sharp when called upon again.
He walked in a run with the bases loaded to hand Tri-City its first run before Correia followed with a base hit to make the score 3-0. An infield fielding error brought in another run to up the NorCal led to 4-0.
Bjornstad struck out the first batter he faced in the top of the second inning but a base hit and subsequent fielding error allowed Erickson to reach third base.
Ivan Rodriguez entered the game in relief for the Green Monsters and pitched well, allowing two runs in 4.2 innings of work on the hill while striking out seven batters and throwing 13 first-pitch strikes.
He struck out the first batter he faced in the top of the second inning but gave up a hit to Allen to bring in Erickson.
Tri-City rapped out seven hits in the first two innings while Park View had three hits and stranded four runners on base.
Troy Ueltzen started for Tri-City. The Green Monsters hit the ball well off him in 1.1 innings, scoring three runs before he was lifted in favor of reliever Ben “The Ripper” Tipper.
Anthony Leyva doubled to lead off the bottom of the first inning for Park View. Michael Rodriguez followed with a walk and Ivan Rodriguez doubled to score one run. Jose Mendoza drew an intentional walk to load the bases for teammate Conner Alonzo, who smacked a base hit to plate two runs.
Tipper replaced Ueltzen with one out in the bottom of the second inning and allowed one run to score on a base hit before ending the frame with a strikeout and strand two Park View base runners.
Tipper proved to be the star of the game after calming down.
Tipper had pitched in the first game against Park View, allowing seven runs in 1.1 innings. He struggled at times in the teams’ key elimination matchup, appearing ready to burst out in tears in pressure situations. But he sucked it up – and sucked the air out of Park View with seven strikeouts in four innings.
He left the game with one out in the bottom of the sixth inning. When reliever Tanner Dykstra, the third NorCal pitcher in the game, struck out the final Park View batter to end the Green Monsters’ season and send Tri-City to another game, Tipper was among the first players fro the dugout to run onto the field with tears streaming down his face.
It was his wet badge of courage.
Tipper had persevered through a rough fourth inning that likely decided the outcome of the game. Atticus Gates was hit by a pitch to open the frame; Leyva then followed with a base hit to place two runners on base. An overthrow positioned runners at second and third bases with none out.
NorCal manager Dave Ueltzen intentionally walked Michael Rodriguez to load the bases but Ivan Rodriguez hit into a force out at home plate.
In an unusual piece of strategy, the Tri-City skipper issued an intentional free pass to Mendoza to walk in a run.
With the bases loaded and one out, Tipper dug down deep to position his team for the inspirational win. He struck out catcher Joseph Anderson for the second out and managed to get out of further danger with a force out at third base.
Down 7-5 at this point, the Green Monsters could only look at missed opportunities as their downfall.
Tipper got back on the beam in the bottom of the fifth inning by setting Park View down in order, striking out the final two batters.
The Green Monsters went down in order in their final at-bat on a fly-out, ground-out and strikeout.
Park View finished its season with a 2-2 showing at the Western Regional tournament, 13-2 overall in summer all-star tournament play.
Both of the teams’ losses came in the regional tournament against likewise state champions. The Green Monsters didn’t play their best in the two setbacks, but it’s hard to criticize them given the brutal playing conditions.
The other teams also were there for a reason.
“It was a great season for our boys, we had plenty of opportunities to get the victories but in the end we did fall a little short of our ultimate goal,” Park View Little League President Johnny Fuentes said. “We are very proud of our boys, reaching the Western Region alone was a great mountain to overcome, as the competition was tough.
“It was truly special witnessing the Park View families get behind the boys and cheering them on as they got to San Bernardino. Once we arrived to San Bernardino, I noticed the buzz picking up in the city of Chula Vista, hoping we could electrify the city with some Little League excitement.
“Even though we fell short, the boys definitely gave me some great memories that will stay with me forever. I am positive that one day when they are adults and their kids play Little League they will be able to share the great memories that where created by this exciting run to San Bernardino.
“Little League Baseball is truly special, watching the boys play the game of baseball, win or lose its truly a pure game when the boys are having fun playing baseball. Once again, I am very proud of our boys and families that represent our great Little League — Park View Little League.
“To be included the top 15 teams in the nation is amazing in itself and showing up in San Bernardino wearing Park View green and the community there knowing, recognizing the color, uniform and receiving positive feed back is amazing. Hopefully, in the years to come we can give it another run.”
After dropping its opener to Park View, Tri-City staved off elimination with a no-hit win over Utah on Aug. 7 before taking on the Green Monsters again. Erickson struck out 13 batters in the game while Aiden Weissenberg-Frost, the biggest player on the team, collected three hits and drove in four runs.
Nevada dropped a 5-1 decision to Hawaii in the winners bracket semifinal on Aug. 9 to drop to last Friday’s elimination bracket semifinal against Tri-City .
The NorCal champs out-hit Nevada 12-3, breaking open a scoreless game with five runs in the top of the third inning and tacking on three more runs in each of the fourth and sixth innings.
Weissenberg-Frost pitched 5.1 innings, striking out 11 batters and throwing 14 first-pitch strikes. He also collected three hits at the plate.
Allen led Tri-City with four RBI in the win, the team’s third consecutive in elimination play.
The NorCal champs’ winning streak ended in Saturday’s championship game against Honolulu as they were out-hit 13-3 and out-scored 11-0 after grabbing a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Hawaii pitcher Aukai Kea was masterful on the mound by throwing 15 first-pitch strikes and fanning 13 Tri-City batters in the game. Sean Yamaguchi led Honolulu with three hits and four RBI.
Kaolu Holt racked up 13 strikeouts in the semifinal win over Nevada while pitching 5.1 innings.
Hawaii finished 4-0 at the regional tournament while Tri-City finished 3-2.
Field of dreams
Hawaii, representing the West Region, will play Southeast Region champion Peachtree City American from Georgia in Friday’s Little League World Series opener at Lamade Stadium.
Georgia defeated Virginia, 3-0, to win the Southeast Region tournament.
Eight regional champions comprise the United States bracket. Other regional champions include Idaho (Coeur d’Alene) from the Northwest Region, Texas (Houston) from the Southwest Region, Iowa (Dea Moines) from the Midwest Region, Michigan (Grosse Pointe Woods) from the Great Lakes Region, New York (Staten Island) from the Mid-Atlantic Region and Rhode Island (Coventry) from the New England Region.
Idaho defeated Montana, 2-0, to win the Northwest Region championship Saturday in San Bernardino.
The eight teams in the International bracket include champions from the Asia-Pacific (Seoul, South Korea), Australia (Gold Coast, Queensland), Canada (Surrey, British Columbia), Caribbean (Guayama, Puerto Rico), Europe-Africa (Barcelona, Spain), Japan (Kawaguchi), Latin America (Arraijan, Panama) and Mexico (Matamoros, Tamaulipas).
In Thursday’s openers, Asia-Pacific defeated the Caribbean, 4-2, while the Midwest topped the Mid-Atlantic, 5-2, Mexico edged Australia, 3-2, and the Southwest slipped past New England 3-1.
The 2018 LLWS continues through Aug. 26. Games will be telecast on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC-TV.
For complete information, visit the website at www.littleleague.org.
FROM THE LITTLE LEAGUE WESTERN REGIONAL BASEBALL TOURNAMENT TO A PRO CAREER
SAN BERNARDINO, CALIF. – While all of the participants of the Little League® Western Regional Tournament enjoy their experience in San Bernardino, there are a handful of notable stars who have gone on to have professional careers.
Cody Bellinger – Chandler (Ariz.) National Little League (2007)
Today, he roams the outfield and first base for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but in 2007 he roamed Al Houghton Stadium at the Little League Western Regional Headquarters in San Bernardino, Calif. Cody Bellinger was a member of the Chandler (Ariz.) National Little League team that won the Arizona State Title, took home the West Region crown, and earned a trip to the Little League Baseball® World Series. A decade after his appearance in San Bernardino and Williamsport, Bellinger was promoted to the Dodgers and had a break out year that included being name an All-Star, participating in the Home Run Derby, earning National League Rookie of the Year honors, and helping his Dodgers to a National League Championship.
Sean Burroughs – Long Beach (Calif.) Little League (1992-93)
One of the more famous players in the Western Regional Tournament that later played in Major League Baseball was Sean Burroughs. As a Little Leaguer®, he was a dominating force for Long Beach (Calif.) Little League both on the mound and at the plate. Long Beach LL is the only team to successful defend its Regional crown, winning in both 1992 and 1993, going on to win the LLBWS in both years. Mr. Burroughs was also a member of the 2000 USA Olympic team that won a gold medal in the Sydney Games. Originally drafted by the San Diego Padres after a tremendous high school career, Burroughs played for several major league teams as a third baseman, but injuries and circumstances limited his success in the major league.
Ed Vosberg – Cactus Little League (Tucson, Ariz.) (1973)
Ed Vosberg is one of only three players to have been in the Little League Baseball World Series, the College World Series, and Major League Baseball World Series. In 1973, Mr. Vosberg was a pitcher for the Cactus Little League team from Tucson, Ariz. Wining the West Region Crown, Arizona went on to the Little League Baseball World Series where they fell to Taiwan in the championship game. In the semifinals, Vosberg threw a one hitter, and later in his collegiate career, helped led the University of Arizona Wildcats to the College World Series. Drafted in 1983 by the San Diego Padres, Vosberg was a left-handed relief pitcher that played for multiple teams during his ten year major league career. 1n 1997, he was a member of the Florida Marlins where he helped lead them to a World Series title.
Michael Conforto – Redmond (Wash.) North Little League (2004)
In 2004, Michael Conforto came to San Bernardino as a member of Redmond North Little League, leading his team to the Northwest Region Championship to earn a trip to Williamsport. Following his impressive Little League career, Conforto went on to play for Oregon State where he led his team to the 2013 College World Series. Currently, Conforto plays for the New York Mets and will be returning to Williamsport this summer to play in the MLB Little League Classic on Sunday, August 19.
Stephen Fife – South Central Boise (Idaho) Little League (1999)
Stephen Fife led Idaho to its first and only West Regional Championship in 1999 as a member of South Central Boise (Idaho) Little League. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2008 and began his major league in 2012 as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Darnell Coles – San-Ri Little League (Rialto/San Bernardino, Calif.) (1974)
As a member of one of three local-area teams to ever play at the Western Regional Headquarters in San Bernardino, Darnell Coles led the San-Ri Little League from Rialto & San Bernardino to the West Regionals in 1974. Unfortunately, San-Ri lost in the championship game to a very tough Red Bluff team from Northern California. After a star career at Eisenhower High School, lettering in four sports, Coles earned a football scholarship to UCLA. Despite his scholarship, Coles was also drafted by the Seattle Mariners and chose to play baseball. Coles later starred with the Detroit Tigers, hitting 20 home runs in one season. He is currently the hitting instructor for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Hank Conger – Ocean View Little League (Huntington Beach, Calif.) (2000)
Hank Conger played for Ocean View Little League of Huntington Beach, Calif., in the 2000 Western Regional Tournament. In the championship game, the team from Washington avoided pitching to him in each of his at bats, and went on to defeat Ocean View Little League by a run. Conger was later drafted by the Anaheim Angles in 2006, played in his first major league game for the Angels in 2011, and was later traded to the Houston Astros.
Ken Hubbs – Colton (Calif.) Little League (1954)
While he never played at the Western Regional Headquarters, Ken Hubbs and the Colton (Calif.) Little League went to the Little League Baseball World Series in 1954. He lettered in four sports in high school, named All-CIF in three sports, and was named an All-American in both football and baseball. After being recruited by John Wooden to play basketball at UCLA, Hubbs was drafted by the Chicago Cubs and quickly made his way to the majors, setting many fielding records in his brief career. In 1962, he was named the National League Rookie of the Year and became the first rookie to also win the Golden Glove. Unfortunately, his career was cut short as he died shortly later in a plane crash. In his honor, Colton Little League has since been renamed Ken Hubbs Little League and continues to be an active Little League program today.
Matt and Marques Tuiasosopo – Woodinville (Wash.) Little League (1995 & 1998)
There have been several players who played at the Western Regionals and went on to play in the NFL instead of Major League Baseball. One of them is part of the only brother combination that played in the West Regional tournament that also went on to play professionally, the Tuiasosopo brothers. Graduates of Woodinville (Wash.) Little, Marques played in San Bernardino in 1995 and Matt played in 1998. Marques was drafted by the Minnesota Twins, but opted to accept a football scholarship to the University of Washington where he led the Huskies to a Pac 10 and Rose Bowl Championship 2000. One year later, he was drafted by the Oakland Raiders and spent eight season in the NFL. Today he serves as the quarterback coach at the University of California-Berkley. His brother Matt played at the Western Regional in 1998, was drafted by the Mariners in 2004, and later made his MLB debut in 2008 before going on to play with the Detroit Tigers.
Turk Schonert – Bolsa Little League (Garden Grove, Calif.) (1968)
One of two NFL players that played in the Western Regional Tournament before they were located at the Western Regional Headquarters complex in San Bernardino, Turk Schonert went on to have an extremely successful athletic career. In 1968, he led Bolsa Little League to a West Region championship, earning a trip to the Little League Baseball World Series. Following his Little League career, Schonert made the decision to concentrate on football and later started for Stanford University. Originally drafted by the Chicago Bears, he played nine seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, leading them into two Super Bowls. Mr. Schonert retired from playing in the NFL in 1998.
Brian Sipe – El Cajon (Calif.) Northern Little League (1961)
Drafted by the Cleveland Browns, Brian Sipe played nine seasons for Cleveland with his best season coming in 1980 when he led the Browns to the playoffs, received the NFL MVP award, was named to the Pro Bowl, and was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Year. His athletic success came early in life, however, leading the El Cajon (Calif.) Northern Little League to the 1961 West Region Championship and a trip to the Little League Baseball World Series. Sipe would later also star at San Diego State before going into the NFL.
Matt Cassel – Northridge City (Calif.) Little League (1994)
Matt Cassel spent most of his college career playing behind a Heisman-winning quarterback at USC, and even spent time playing tight end and running back. However, learning to be adaptable and overcome tough situations came early in life for Matt Cassel. The Cassel’s home was destroyed in the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and like most of his teammates of the Northridge City (Calif.) Little League, Matt’s family had to find a new place live under difficult conditions. Despite the challenges, Northridge City LL stormed through the Southern California Divisional and earned a place in the Western Regional Tournament. Known as the “Earthquake Kids” Northridge City LL, went on to win the United States championship at the Little League Baseball World Series before later falling in the World Series championship game. While Matt faced challenges at USC, he was the ultimate team player, switching positions several times one season to help his team overcome injuries. Dedication and a never-give-up attitude helped him to get drafted as a quarterback with the New England Patriots, and in 2008 when fellow Little Leaguer Tom Brady was injured early in the season, Cassel became the starting quarterback for the remainder of the season. Cassel was eventually traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, where he led the team to the playoffs and was later named to the Pro Bowl.
With thousands of players participating in the West and Northwest Regional Tournament, this select few were also able to take their talent to the ultimate level playing on the professional level.
For more information about Little League, please go to www.littleleague.org.
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West champion Hawaii wins longest game in LLWS history to open youth baseball classic
Three Hawaii pitchers combined to shut out Southeast champion Georgia over 11 innings and Aukai Kea supplied the dramatic game-winner when he slammed a two-run home run in the bottom of the 11th inning to lead the West champions to a 2-0 victory in Friday’s Little League World Series opener for both teams.
The game was the longest in LLWS history.
The game was scoreless through the middle of the 11th inning as pitching and defense dominated the game. West pitchers struck out 16 Southeast batters while Georgia pitchers struck out 18 Hawaii players.
Jansen Kenty started for the Southeast regional champions and exited the game with one out in the sixth inning after reaching the maximum pitch count. He threw 15 first-pitch strikes and whiffed 12 Hawaii batters.
Kea pitched 6.1 innings for the West regional champions and was equally dominant on the mound with 11 first-pitch strikes and 10 strikeouts.
With both starters out of the game, it was up to the relief corps of both teams to finish off the marathon contest, which started late to begin with due to a rain delay.
Ka’olu Holt pitched 2.2 innings followed by Sean Yamaguchi, who pitched two innings while allowing one hit and striking out four hitters to earn the win.
Ben Traxler, who took the loss, allowed two hits and two runs over 2.2 innings. He struck out three batters.
Kenty, who recorded one hit in the batters box to go with his solid showing on the mound, scattered four hits.
Kea allowed two hits and walked one during his stint on the hill.
Overall, Hawaii out-hit Georgia 8-4. Kea and teammate Caleb Okada led all players in the game with two hits.
Kea had the hit that counted the most with his game-winning 11th inning home run.
Mana Lau Kong and Bruce Boucher also reached base twice for Hawaii with a pair of walks.
Georgia committed two errors in the game. The Southeast champs had to get out of a big jam by turning a rare 1-2-3 double play to end one Hawaii scoring threat.
West advances to meet Great Lakes regional champion Michigan in its next game on Sunday (11 a.m. PT) on ABC-TV.
Great Lakes is also 1-0 in tournament play after shading Northwest regional champion Idado, 5-4, in another game on Friday.
Michigan trailed Idaho, 4-1, before ending the game with a victory following a four-run rally in the bottom of the sixth inning. Ryan Knaebel singled off the third baseman’s glove to drive in the decisive run for Great Lakes.
Idaho scored three runs in the top of the second inning and added another run in the top of the third inning to post an early 4-0 lead.
Christopher Reynolds struck out 11 Michigan batters in 4.2 innings in the loss. Idaho’s Caden Symons led all players in the game with two RBI.
The game featured five errors committed between the teams — three by the Northwest champions and two by Michigan.