In a week's time, a field of 56 teams from four divisions playing at three venues, each contending for a coveted district banner, was trimmed down to four tournament winners.
The 2011 Little League District 62 Tournament of Champions came to a close Saturday for Majors, Minor A and Minor B divisions at Marina Park in Huntington Beach and on Monday at Ocean View High for the Junior Division. Emerging as champions were the Seaview Cubs (Majors), Robinwood Warriors (Minor A), Ocean View Rockhounds (Minor B) and Westminster (Juniors).
"Wow...that was amazing."
Those were the words uttered by Seaview Manager Mike McKenzie just moments after he, his Cubs and coaching staff, had mugged for the camera following another dramatic, come-from-behind victory. This one came Saturday at Robinwood Little League, and it was for all the marbles.
Seaview was on the brink of defeat, this time in the Majors Division title game but staged a two-out rally to score three runs and pull out a 6-5 victory over the Ocean View Dodgers.
McKenzie was caught up in the moment as he celebrated with his players and coaches during the postgame festivities.
"He's been coaching for 10 years, but this is the first time he's taken a team to a Tournament of Champions title game," McKenzie's wife, Diana, said as she watched her husband mix it up with his happy players. "He's had teams in this tournament before, but this is the farthest he's gone. I'm proud of him."
Seaview, which held leads of 1-0 and 2-1, trailed, 5-3, heading into the bottom of the sixth. The Cubs pulled to within 5-4 when John Thomas, who had nine hits in 14 at bats during the tournament, hit a fly ball to shallow right field that scored Brett Bowman. Another fly into shallow right field, this one by Kevin Dorman — who was 10 for 14 in the tournament — brought in Thomas to tie the score.
Christian Bettino, pinch running for Dorman, scored the winning run on an infield throwing error.
Ocean View had taken its first lead in the fifth with its own spirited rally. Brandon Nicholson roped a full-count double into the gap in right-center field that scored two runs to make it a 3-2 game. The Dodgers increased the lead to 4-2 when Nicholson scored on a wild pitch.
The Cubs scored once in the bottom of the fifth to get to within 4-3 when Andy Ross, who McKenzie said had seven hits in "clutch situations" during the tournament, sent a high, one-hop grounder that sailed into left field to score Thomas. The Dodgers again moved ahead by two runs in the top of the sixth when, with two out, Stubbs hit an 0-2 pitch for an RBI single to right field to make it 5-3.
The Cubs earned the district title despite losing two players, Julian Clyne (broken hand) and Tommy Chittick (shoulder), to injury during the tournament and a third player, Dylan Hord, didn't compete in the tournament due to "prior commitments," McKenzie said. Bowman, and Max Betts, who entered in the fifth inning with Seaview down, 3-2, to get the pitching win in relief, filled two vacant roster spots.
McKenzie said Chittick "popped his shoulder" during warm-ups prior to the start of Saturday's final. A fourth Cub, Nick Oakes, suffered a broken nose during a collision in center field during the Fountain Valley game on June 11. Oakes returned to play in Saturday's championship game.
"We persevered over the hurdles we faced," McKenzie said. "We came from behind twice in our last few games. We had been preaching to the kids that the game isn't over until the final out. They did it again."
In addition to knocking off Ocean View No. 1 and Huntington Valley No. 1, the Seaview Cubs scored tournament wins over Fountain Valley No. 2 (8-4) and Ocean View No. 2 (8-5), the latter in the semifinals.
The Seaview Cubs, who had three come-from-behind victories in the tournament, are: John Thomas, Kevin Dorman, Sean McKenzie, Julian Clyne, Andy Ross, Jacob Kress, Nick Oakes, Andy Bennett, Christian Bettino, Cade Pendergraft, Tommy Chittick, Brett Bowman and Max Betts. The coaching staff includes Mike McKenzie (manager), Jeff Kress and Gary Oakes.
Minor A Division
Robinwood Warriors 9, Robinwood Hawkeyes 2: The Hawkeyes struck first but the Warriors scored the game's next nine runs en route to winning the all-Robinwood finale.
A solo home run in the top of the first inning by Andrew Sojka gave the Hawkeyes their only lead of the game. They wouldn't score again until the top of the sixth when Jair Lozoya also hit a solo homer. Between those two hits, the Warriors were in control.
An RBI single by the Warriors' Eli Duval in the bottom of the first scored the tying run. The Warriors then turned four hits in the third inning into four more runs, scored their sixth run on a passed ball in the bottom of the fourth and put the game away by scoring three runs in the fifth, where Duval collected his second hit and second RBI of the game.
Rocco Peppi also had two hits for the Warriors and recorded the pitching win by throwing the first five innings. Dylan Holt closed on the mound.
"The boys battled hard and played incredibly well," Warriors Manager Todd Arita said. "They really stuck together and played like true champions today."
The Warriors won the district title by defeating Seaview No. 2 (8-5), Costa Mesa American No. 1 (4-3), Robinwood No. 1 (11-6) and the Hawkeyes.
The Robinwood Warriors are: Jared Arita, Vincent Dunton, Eli Duval, Ezekiel Franco, Noah Harrigan, Alex Hodges, Dylan Holt, Richard Imagawa, Chase Ishino, Nick Montiel, Rocco Peppi and Ryan Sueki. The team is led by Manager Todd Arita and coaches Ray Holt and Len Peppi.
Minor B Division
Ocean View Rockhounds 15, Ocean View Lookouts 6: Thomas Williams went four for four with three RBIs and threw the final 2 1/3 innings and Lisa Tobin had a key, two-run ground-rule double in the third inning to help propel the Rockhounds (20-4-1) past the Lookouts in an all-Ocean View championship game.
Rockhounds' Manager Chad DiMarco said his team went 5-1 this year against the Lookouts but had to rally from a five-run deficit in the top of the first inning to win Saturday's showdown.
"The one thing that was key for this team is that these kids played with a lot of heart," DiMarco said. This probably wasn't the most talented team throughout the season, but their dedication, through their work ethic, was all the difference.
"I had the Rockhounds here last year in the title game, but we lost to Robinwood No. 1. That team was more talented than this year's team but as I said, it's all about heart, and that's what this group of kids has."
Shane Hoodman threw three innings and also contributed two hits and three RBIs to the Rockhounds' offense. David Drigla had three hits and Chance DiMarco and Cole Kaplan both had two hits. Eric Church and Tyler La Force both singled in a 16-hit attack.
Chandler Calkins had a two-run double and RBI single, AJ Valle two hits and Noah Madas an RBI double for the Lookouts.
The Rockhounds' road to the district championship included wins over Seaview No. 2 (8-5), Costa Mesa American No. 1 (4-3), Robinwood No. 1 (11-6) and the Lookouts.
The Ocean View Rockhounds are: Nick Chumacero, Eric Church, Chance DiMarco, David Drigla, Shane Hoodman, Cole Kaplan, Reilly Kells, Tyler La Force, Kaleb Plew, Lisa Tobin and Thomas Williams. The team is headed by Manager Chad DiMarco and coaches Scott Kaplan, Chris La Force, Gary Buckels and Chris Wakeland.
In previous Minor B action:
Seaview Yankees 12, Huntington Valley Huskies 4: After an impressive, 15-1 win over Fountain Valley in an opening-round game June 11, the Yankees (Seaview No. 1) advanced to the semifinals by eliminating Huntington Valley (No. 1) on June 15. The Yankees' were hot at the plate and received key hits from Jesse Sparks, Ryan Lum and Jacob and Kline Francis. The story of game was the strong pitching of Ethan Eberhardt who took the mound at the end of the second inning and shut down the Huskies the rest of the way.
Ocean View 3, Seaview Yankees 1: The Yankees saw their tournament run end June 16 in a hard-fought pitching dual. Clay Kaneko, age 8, kept the Yankees in the game with three strong innings. He gave up one run on one hit. Josh Jones and Sahyog Kasliwal finished on the mound for Seaview. Yankee bats never got going due to the outstanding pitching by Ocean View.
All-Stars tournament begins Saturday
The District 62 All-Stars Tournament, a two-week double-elimination event, starts Saturday with first-round action. The 12-year-old (Major), 11/10 and 9/10 division tournaments will be played at Mile Square Park in Fountain Valley. The Junior tournament is at Marina Park (Robinwood Little League host).
Editor's note: To get your team's game reports from the tournament published in the Independent, email email@example.com.
(At Mile Square Park)
Major All-Stars (Field 15)
9 a.m.: Seaview vs. Huntington Valley
Noon: Robinwood vs. Westminster
3 p.m.: Costa Mesa National vs. Ocean View
6 p.m.: Costa Mesa American vs. Fountain Valley
10/11 All-Stars (Field 12)
Noon: Costa Mesa National vs. Robinwood
3 p.m.: Ocean View vs. Huntington Valley
6 p.m.: Seaview vs. Westminster
5 p.m.: Fountain Valley vs. Costa Mesa National-Robinwood winner
9/10 All-Stars (Field 14)
9 a.m.: Seaview vs. Fountain Valley
Noon: Huntington Valley vs. Westminster
3 p.m.: Robinwood vs. Costa Mesa American
6 p.m.: Ocean View vs. Costa Mesa National
(at Marina Park, Robinwood Little League host)
10 a.m.: Huntington Valley vs. Seaview
1 p.m.: Westminster vs. Fountain Valley
Noon: Robinwood vs. Huntington Valley-Seaview winner
3 p.m.: Ocean View vs. Westminster-Fountain Valley winner