Sweetwater Valley one win away from Little League fantasyland


Sweetwater Valley Little League’s 12U all-star team – the Sweetwater Sluggers, as they now call themselves — have taken each of the 15 tournament games they have played thus far, according to manager Ward Lannom, “one at a time.”

The season is now down to “one game” — and one win from advancing to the team’s ultimate goal, a trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.

The Sweetwater Sluggers set themselves up to make the chance of a lifetime come true by defeating Snow Canyon Little League, 11-1, in Thursday evening’s winners bracket semifinal at the Little League World Series West Region tournament in San Bernardino.

The four-inning, run-rule victory advanced the reigning California District 42 champions to Saturday’s regional tournament championship game. Win that and the team punches its plane ticket to Pennsylvania.

“The team has taken each game as it has come up in every tournament and now it’s down to the kids playing the most important game in their lives,” Lannom explained. “It’s winner take all on Saturday.”

Sweetwater Valley (15-0) will play the winner of Friday’s losers bracket semifinal pitting Snow Canyon and Waipio Little League from Waipahu, Hawaii. The Sweetwater Sluggers have beaten both teams. Utah is 1-1 in the tournament while Hawaii is 2-1. The Waipahu team has gotten hot since dropping its tournament opener, 16-9, to Sweetwater Valley.

Hawaii defeated Arizona’s Chandler National North Little League, 12-9, in an elimination game on Tuesday. Hawaii ousted Nevada’s Paseo Verde Little League from the tournament by score of 14-3 in Wednesday’s elimination contest.

Saturday’s game is slated for a 6 p.m. start and will be telecast by ESPN. Pizzo’s Pizzeria in eastern Chula Vista will host the official viewing partiy for the public. Part of the proceeds will feed back to the team as part of a fundraiser.

Lannom said his team will need to focus on its strengths to continue to be successful and not worry about what other teams may bring to the diamond.

“We have all our pitchers available, we’re looking good in that department,” the Sweetwater Valley manager explained. “Hopefully, the kids can continue their hot streak at the plate. They’ve mashed the ball all tournament.”

Sweetwater Valley racked up 14 hits in Thursday’s shortened contest, adding three home runs for a total of 70 in 15 games spanning five tournaments. The Southern California champions have outscored opponents 217-47 in those 15 games.

In three regional tournament games, the Sweetwater Sluggers have rapped out 44 hits, belted 13 home runs and scored 38 runs. The team is averaging 15 hits per game.

Walker Lannom, the manager’s son, and teammate Ari Armas swung the big bats on Thursday. The younger Lannom blasted a pair of three-run home runs to collect six RBI while Armas also sent a three-run blast over the outfield fence to finish the game with four RBI.

On the mound, starter Levi Mendez and reliever Nate Nankil combined to pitch a no-hitter against Snow Canyon.

A Sweetwater Valley error led to Utah’s only run in the game.

Almost perfect, almost there.

“Levi had a phenomenal game on the mound,” the SVLL manager said. “He threw 35 pitches in three-and-two-thirds innings. That’s a very low pitch count for three-and-two-thirds innings.”

For the second time in the regional tournament, Sweetwater Valley battled back from an early deficit.

Utah took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a three-base error and a passed ball.

Snow Canyon hitters failed to get anything solid the rest of the game.

Meanwhile, it was only a matter of time before Sweetwater Valley’s sleeping giant awoke.

Walker Lannom led off the top of the second inning with a hit and came home on a base hit by Dante Schmid to tie the score.

The California Section 7 champions then blew the game open with six runs in the top of the third inning and tacked on four more runs in the top of the fourth inning.

Lannom and Ari Armas supplied the big blows in the third inning uprising as each blasted three-run home runs.

Lannom returned to the plate an inning later and blasted another three-run shot, this time adding a little more kick with the bat.

Lannom hit a solo home run in Monday’s 11-2 win over Paseo Verde and cracked a pair of round-trippers in Sunday’s win over Hawaii to give him five for the tournament to go with 11 RBI. He went 3-for-3 in Thursday’s game.

“Walker has just smashed the ball,” the elder Lannom noted.

Schmid matched the younger Lannom with three hits against Utah while Nankil collected two hits. Mendez proved he was in control of the game with 10 first-pitch strikes.

While the stakes may be daunting because of the nature of Saturday’s winner-take-all match-up, Sweetwater Valley players said they are determined to see their journey through to the end.

“We don’t want to let it go,” Walker Lannom told the media during Thursday’s post-game press conference. “We need to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”

One more win and it’s off to Little League fantasyland.

Rooter bus available to Saturday’s championship game

Sycuan Casino is making it easy for fans to attend Saturday’s West Regional championship game in San Bernardino by generously donating a bus for fans to make the trip to watch the game. Sweetwater Valley Little League will be pre-selling tickets at Pizzo’s Pizzeria on Friday (Aug. 14) from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 each adults and children. The bus is scheduled to leave Saturday at 1 p.m. from Pizzo’s parking lot. Sweetwater Valley Little League gear — the lucky monkey T-shirt and blue SVLL all-star shirt — will also be available for $15 each on Friday at the restaurant.

Hawaii to challenge Sweetwater Valley for Little League World Series berth

Hawaii’s Waipio Little League struck early and often to eliminate Utah’s Snow Canyon Little League, 15-0, in Friday’s second semifinal to earn a berth in Saturday’s Little League World Series West Region championship game opposite Southern California champion Sweetwater Valley.

The Hawaiians rolled across four runs in the top of the first inning, scored five times in the second inning and added six runs in the third inning to bolt to a 15-0 lead and, in the process, secure the run-rule victory. Waipio banged out 16 hits in the four-inning contest and did not commit an error. Utah ended its tournament run by mustering just two hits and committing one error.

Hawaii improves to 3-1 in regional play and takes a three-game winning streak into Saturday’s championship rematch against Sweetwater Valley, which defeated the Hawaii team, 16-9, to open tournament play on Aug. 9.

Waipio has outscored its last three opponents 41-12.

Sweetwater Valley carries a 3-0 regional tournament record into Saturday’s LLWS qualifying match-up. The SoCal champions have outscored their three regional foes 38-12.

Hunter Sasaki paced Hawaii with three hits and six RBI in Friday’s elimination game. Teammates Charles Winchester and Brayden Hiraki each collected two hits in the game while Sage-Manuel Koahou and Winchester each knocked in two runs.  Joshua Reis pitched two innings for the winners.

Mason Strong and Carston Herman each struck out three Hawaii batters in a losing cause. Strong recorded eight first-pitch strikes while Herman had seven first-pitch strikes.

Saturday’s game is a winner-take-all affair. There is no “if” game. The winner advances to compete in the Little League World Series in Pennsylvania Aug. 20-30.

Sweetwater Valley slams six homers, blasts Hawaii, 16-9, in Little League World Series West Region opener

Sunday’s Little League World Series West Regional game between Southern California champion Sweetwater Valley Little League and Hawaii champion Waipio Little League proved to be a hitter’s paradise as the teams combined for 13 runs in the first inning alone before finishing with a final tally of 26 runs on 27 hits in the opening-round game.

Sweetwater Valley came out on top, 16-9, in the slugfest to advance to Monday’s winners bracket game against Paseo Verde Little League from Henderson, Nev.

The winner of Monday’s game advances to Thursday’s semifinal contest in the six-team tournament.

The reigning California District 42 and California Section 7 champions racked up 16 hits in the tournament opener against Hawaii, belting six home runs.

The six home runs set a new single-game regional record since the fences were moved back to 225 feet in 2011.

Sweetwater Valley (13-0) scored in each of the opening four innings and plated runs in five of the six innings overall. Despite tacking up six runs in the top of the first inning to quickly go up 6-0, the District 42 champions had to play from behind after Hawaii scored seven runs of its own in the bottom half of the inning.

“Crazy first inning,” Sweetwater Valley manager Ward Lannom explained. “We thought we had it when we went ahead, 6-0, but they (Hawaii) came back with seven runs. The team battled back after they went up 7-6. Walker (Lannom) hit a two-run home run to make it 8-7 and the momentum shifted. From that point on, we stayed on top.”

Sweetwater Valley came into Sunday evening’s game averaging 4.75 home runs per game, 15.25 hits per game and 14.91 runs per game. The team’s offensive production held up in the numbers department but the  pitching and defense will need to tighten if the team is going to advance farther in the regional field.

Sweetwater Valley used four pitchers in the game while Hawaii went through five pitchers.

Hawaii drops to Tuesday’s losers bracket game and will play the loser of Monday’s Utah-Arizona winners bracket game.

Arizona stunned Northern California, 1-0, in Sunday’s opening round.

Levi Mendez and Walker Lannom each cracked a pair of home runs in Sunday’s game while Isaac Artalejo went 3-for-4 and drove in five runs.

Mendez got the scoring going with a two-run home run in the top of the first inning and responded with a solo shot in the top of the third inning to extend the Sweetwater Valley lead to 12-7.

Lannom hit solo shot in first inning and added a two-run shot in second inning as Sweetwater Valley scored five runs in the frame to take an 11-7 lead over Hawaii.

Hawaii proved it belonged in the tournament by rapping out 11 hits. Waipio – the 2008 Little League World Series champion and 2010 LLWS runner-up — made it 14-9 by scoring two runs in the bottom of the fourth inning while being aided by one SVLL error.

Through four innings the teams had combined for 23 runs on 23 hits.

Artalejo chipped in with three run-scoring singles, including a two-run scoring single in the first inning and and a three-run scoring single in the second inning, to brace the Sweetwater Valley offense.

Sweetwater Valley sent nine batters to the plate in its half of the first inning.

Antonio Andrade opened the game by reaching base on an error and Mendez promptly drove the first pitch offered him over the outfield canopies for a tape-measure home run. Nate Nakil followed with what appared to be another home run until the Waipio outfielder threw his glove up to snag it before it went over the outfield hedge. Lannom then followed with a home run just inside the left field foul pole to make it 3-0.

The hitting barrage contnued. Jake Baptista lined a single into center field and Dante Schmid followed with a bloop hit into short right field to place runners at first and second bases. Artalejo then drove a pitch to the alley in right center field to score two runs, and Artalejo came around to score when the throw home was misplayed.

6-0 SVLL.

Hawaii made some rumblings in the bottom of the third inning after opening with a double and single to place runners at the corners. Following a force-out, Sweetwater Valley managed to thwart a double steal by throwing out the runner at the plate. Mendez, who entered the game in relief of starter Nankil with just one down in the first inning, then bore down to get the final out of the inning on a strikeout to strand the runner at third base.

Sweetwater Valley responded to the Hawaii threat by adding two runs in the top of the fourth inning on back-to-back home runs by Braiz Ramirez and Nick Maldonado.

Sweetwater Valley added two insurance runs in the top of the sixth inning when Jake Baptista doubled off the glove of the left fielder, Ramirez followed with an infield single and, with one out, a throwing error allowed one run to score. The inning continued with two more singles and another error that scored one run.

Nankil was charged with all seven Hawaii runs while failing to make it out of the bottom of the first inning. Mendez took over and managed to stop the bloodletting by getting the final two outs of the inning.

Mendez left the game with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning after giving up two runs on five hits. He left the game with a five-run cushion after throwing 66 pitches and inducing seven strikeouts.

“Nate started and pitched a good first inning, we just made a couple of errors to keep it going,” the elder Lannom said. “Levi came in and stopped them.”

Andrade entered the game with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning and left the game two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning after throwing 20 pitches. He pitched the equivalent of one-and-one-third innings.

Schmid closed out the game by getting the final out on a grounder to second base. He was clocked at 75 mph while pitching to two batters.

The SVLL manager has stressed his team continues to “take it one game at a time.”

Monday’s game against the Nevada champion thus looms as the team’s biggest this season as the road to Williamsport starts to take its final turn.

“We’re looking good,” Ward Lannom said. “We have two strong pitchers for Nevada. They had the bye, so we’re assuming they will throw their ace.”

Both Schmid and Andrade are available for Monday’s game while Mendez will be available for Thursday’s game, if Sweetwater Valley advances that far.

Mendez also finished with three hits in Sunday’s game to match Artalejo while collecting three RBI.

Vincent Ogasawara paced Hawaii with three RBI.

Sage-Manuel Kaohou started the game for Waipio.

Hawaii committed six errors in the game.

Double elimination play continues on Tuesday when two of the six teams will be eliminated. The final four teams in the tournament enter a single-elimination bracket.

Sweetwater Valley now has 63 home runs in 13 games. Twelve of the 13 players on the SVLL roster have now hit home runs. Andrade leads the team with 15 home runs.

Viewing parties for Monday’s game are scheduled for both Pizzo’s Pizzeria and Oggi’s Pizza in eastern Chula Vista.

The attendance for Sunday’s game was announcecd as more than 9,700 — an opening day regional tournament record.

Another one bites the dust as Sweetwater Valley’s magic season contnues with 11-2 win over Nevada

With 10 home runs, 30 hits and 27 runs scored, Sweetwater Valley Little League’s 12U all-star team has cut a commanding 2-0 swath through the opening two rounds of this week’s Little League World Series West Region championship tournament in San Bernardino.

A bit harrowing at times, Sweetwater Valley proved it was the better team in Monday’s winners bracket game against Paseo Verde Little League from Henderson, Nev., by recording an 11-2 victory.

Sweetwater Valley (14-0) advances to Thursday’s winners bracket final against Snow Canyon Little League from Santa Clara, Utah. The winner of Thursday’s semifinal earns a berth in Saturday’s tournament championship game.

The winner of Saturday’s game advances to the Little League World Series.

Sweetwater Valley slammed four home runs and rapped out 14 hits in Monday’s win to build on its 16-9 win over Hawaii on Sunday.

“It was a matter of time before we figured out their pitcher and started hitting,” SVLL manager Ward Lannom explained in regard to Monday’s victory. “I think all the games from here on out are going to be closer, none are going to be cakewalks.”

After enduring a marathon game against Hawaii Sunday night, Sweetwater Valley was forced to make a quick turnaround to play an afternoon game on Monday. Both teams created opportunities in every inning, with Sweetwater Valley managing to produce that breakthrough play to score runs in bunches whereas Nevada did not. Paseo Verde left 13 men on base in the game.

In fact, it appeared early on the game might turn into a blowout on the part of the Southern California champions. Sweetwater Valley missed a golden opportunity after loading the bases with none out in the top of the first inning. However, the District 42 champions couldn’t capitalize.

That would not happen again. Sweetwater Valley poured five runs across in the top of the second inning and added a single run in the third inning, two more each in the fourth and fifth innings and another run in the sixth inning.

“I have confidence in our hitting,” Lannom said. “It’s not a matter of if we will score but when we will score.”

Antonio Andrade and Levi Mendez opened the game with back-to-back singles and Nate Nankil followed with an infield hit to load the bases. But Walker Lannom struck out and Jake Baptista hit into a double play to end the inning.

Paseo Verde put two runners on in its half of the frame and also couldn’t push anyone home as starter Dante Schmid struck out two batters and induced a third hitter into ground out.

Sweetwater Valley picked up right where if left off as Schmid doubled to lead off the second inning. Isaac Artalejo, who picked up five RBI in Sundays opener, drove a smash into left field to score Schmid for a 1-0 SVLL lead.

The Southern California champs made it 2-0 on a standup double by Andrade and a line single by Mendez with two out. With runners at the corners, Nankil then slammed the first pitch offered him over the left-center field fence for a three-run home run.

Suddenly, it was 5-0 Sweetwater Valley.

The Nevada champions got one run back in the bottom of the second inning. It started when catcher Matt Galdi blooped a single into center field. Schmid struck out the next batter for two outs. But a walk and a single loaded the bases. Schmid fell behind Santino Panaro 3-1 before issuing another walk to bring in one run. The SVLL pitcher, facing his counterpart at the plate, Julian Molto-Herrera, got out of the inning on a strikeout.

Through two frames, Paseo Verde had left five runners on base.

Sweetwater Valley got that run back on a home run by Jake Baptista to lead off the top of the third inning.

Paseo Verde threatened once again in the bottom of the third inning. Schmid issued a lead-off walk and, following a ground-out, walked another batter to place two runners on base. Schmid struck out Galdi for the second out but left the hill in favor of Nankil after pushing his pitch tally to 66 in the game.

Nankil struck out Tanner McDougal for the third out of the inning to end the threat. Going to Nankil was a big confidence boost after Nankil encountered a rocky start in Sunday’s opener.

“Nate actually pitched well on Sunday,” the SVLL manager said. “He had 13 strikes and six balls but that error hurt him and Hawaii had a couple of bloop hits. We’re going to use Nate down the line. We took him out at 20 pitches so he’ll be available for our next game.”

Schmid, clocked at 77 mph early in the contest, struck out six batters but walked four batters during his time on the mound.

Nevada changed pitchers in the top of the fourth inning and Sweetwater Valley greeted newcomer Ryan Weisman by scoring twice in the frame. Mark Cervantes cracked a lead-off home run to up Sweetwater Valley’s lead to 7-1. Andrade followed with an infield hit and Mendez drew a walk to place two runners on base. A force-out by Lannom scored one run. Sweetwater Valley was denied more runs on a running catch in right field to close the inning.

Nankil returned to the hill with an 8-1 lead.  The Nevadans again put two runners on base but stranded both as Nankil induced two fly-outs and a groundout.

Sweetwater Valley finally secured a comfortable lead after scoring twice in the top of the fifth inning to make the score 10-1. A two-out bloop single by Cameron Barbabosa, a line single by Andrade and a two-RBI double by Mendez did the damage.

Andrade finished the game 4-for-4 while Mendez collected three RBI in the contest.

Nankil stranded a pair of Nevada runners in the bottom of the fifth after Galdi (single) and Brant Hunt (double) mounted a two-out rally.

Sweetwater Valley continued its prolific run production as Lannom led off the sixth inning with a home run to dead center field. It was Lannom’s third home run of the series, SVLL’s 10th in two games at regionals and 67th in all-star tournament play.

11-1 Sweetwater Valley.

Nankil remained on the mound heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. Nevada sent up the top of its order and built some momentum for Tuesday’s elimination game against Northern California’s Cambrian Park Little League from San Jose by scoring one run and threatening for more.

Panara stroked a one-out base hit and Molto-Herrera followed with another base hit to place runners at the corners. Josh McClean followed with a third consecutive base hit to plate one run. McClean, however, was thrown out trying to stretch his single into a double, though he was credited with an RBI to make the score 11-2.

A subsequent walk took Nankil out of the game at 51 pitches, with Andrade inducing a first pitch groundout to end the game.

Nankil did a yeoman’s job in relief, pitching three innings while allowing one run.

Utah is next on Sweetwater Valley’s schedule. Game time is 6 p.m., with the game to be telecast by ESPN.

Sweetwater Valley has scored 27 runs and battered opposing pitchers for 30 hits in two outings at the regional tournament.

Mendez had a good day on Monday with three hits and a walk and three RBI while Lannom had two RBI.

Utah will be playing its second game after receiving a first-round bye. Landon Frei drove in three runs and struck out nine batters in Monday’s 11-1 win over Arizona champion Chandler National North Little League.

The loser of Thursday’s game drops to Friday’s losers bracket final, which stands as the second semifinal entry to Saturday’s championship contest.

Utah scored 11 runs on six hits while Arizona committed three errors. Frei allowed just four hits in the run-rule victory.

Sweetwater Valley has an abundance of arms to throw at Snow Canyon. Available for pitching duty on Thursday are Mendez, Nankil, Andrade and Lannom. Schmid will be available for Friday or Saturday’s games, depending on the result of Thursday’s match-up against Utah.

The elder Lannom described the Utah team as “scrappy.”

“They’re small but they beat Chandler, which some people here are calling an upset,” the SVLL manager said. “But you’ve got to go out and play the game. They’ve obviously got something there.”

In the meantime, a lot of people keep rooting for Sweetwater Valley to keep going.

“We’ve been good and we’ve had some luck,” the SVLL told the media in San Bernardino after Monday’s game. “It’s worked.”

Sweetwater Valley 12U All-Stars
Team Roster

Players: Antonio Andrade, Isaac Artalejo, Ariel Armas, Jacob Baptista, Cameron Barbabosa, Mark Cervantes, Preston Fleming, Walker Lannom, Nicholas Maldonado, Levi Mendez, Nate Nankil, Braiz Ramirez, Dante Schmid

Manager: Ward Lannom
Coaches: Arturo Maldonado, Jaime Ramirez

Bonita Vista Middle School

Isaac Artalejo, age 13 (nickname “Cachorro”)

Antonio Andrade, age 13 (nickname “Double-A”)

Nate Nankil, age 12 (nickname “Nankil the ball”)

Cameron Barbabosa, age 12 (nickname “Shrimp”)

Eastlake Middle School

Walker Lannom, age 12 (nickname “The Talker”)

Dante Schmid, age 13 (nickname “Big D”)

Levi Mendez, age 12 (nickname “Chip”)

Nick Maldonado, age 12 (nickname “Penguin”)

Preston Fleming, age 12 (nickname “P-diddy”)

Calvary Christian Academy

Mark Cervantes, age 13 (nickname “Mark, Mark, Mark”)


Sacred Heart Academy

Ari Armas, age 12 (nickname “Bugatti”)


Coronado Middle School

Braiz Ramirez, age 12 (nickname “Tree”)

Home School

Jake Baptista, age 12 (nickname “Eyebrows”)



Sweetwater Valley Little League

Tournament Game Log

California District 42 champions

Sweetwater Valley 28, Chula Vista American 0

Sweetwater Valley 19, Park View 1

Sweetwater Valley 18, Imperial Beach 0

Sweetwater Valley 14, Park View 0

California Section 7 champions

Sweetwater Valley 10, Lemon Grove 0

Sweetwater Valley 20, Rancho San Diego 5

Sweetwater Valley 18, Rancho San Diego 7

Southern California-South Division III champions

Sweetwater Valley 12, Orangecrest 5

Sweetwater Valley 6, Encinitas 2

Sweetwater Valley 7, Oceanview 4 (7 innings)

Southern California Division III champions

Sweetwater Valley 9, Manhattan 6

Sweetwater Valley 18, Manhattan 5

Sweetwater Valley wins best-of-three series 2-0

Little League International Western Regional Tournament

West Regional teams:

Chandler National North Little League (Arizona)

Waipahu Waipio Little League (Hawaii)

Paseo Verde Little League (Nevada)

San Jose Cambrian Park Little League (Northern California)

Sweetwater Valley Little League (Southern California)

Snow Canyon Little League (Utah)


Northwest Regional teams:

Juneau Gastineau Channel Little League (Alaska)

West Valley Little League (Idaho)

Billings Boulder Arrowhead Little League (Montana)

Portland Wilshire-Riverside Little League (Oregon)

Vancouver Cascade Little League (Washington)

Gillette Little League (Wyoming)


Game Schedule

Sunday, Aug. 9

Arizona 3, Northern California 0 (West Region)

Oregon 12, Wyoming 3 (Northwest Region)

Washington 5, Idaho 0 (Northwest Region)

Southern California 16,Hawaii 9 (West Region)

Monday, Aug. 10

Oregon 11, Alaska 6 (Northwest Region), 8:30 a.m. ESPN3

Utah 11, Arizona 1 (West Region) (5 innings)

Southern California 11, Nevada 2 (West Region)

Washington 11, Montana 2 (Northwest Region)

Tuesday, Aug. 11

Northwest Region elimination game, Montana 11, Wyoming 1

West Region elimination game, Nevada 9, Northern California 3

West Region elimination game, Hawaii 12, Arizona 9 (7 innings)

Northwest Region elimination game, Idaho 10, Alaska 0 (4 innings)

Wednesday, Aug. 12

Northwest Region elimination game, Idaho 16, Montana 11

West Region elimination game, Hawaii, 14, Nevada 3

Thursday, Aug. 13

Northwest Region winners bracket final (semifinal #1), Oregon 10, Washington 6

West region winners bracket final (semifinal #1), Southern California11, Utah 1

Friday, Aug. 14

Northwest Region elimination game (semifinal #2), Idaho 8, Washington 7

West Region elimination game (semifinal #2), Hawaii 15, Utah 0


Saturday, Aug. 15

Northwest Region championship game, Oregon 15, Idaho 3
Note: Oregon advances to Little League World Series

West Region championship game, Southern California 12, Hawaii 10
Note: Southern California advances to Little League World Series

Sweetwater Valley one win away from Little League fantasyland