It’s that time of year again when kids and parents alike will find themselves glued to their televisions, tuning in to watch some good ol’ baseball. Now, for the big leaguers, these are the “dog days” of summer. Where the pros are battling the heat and fatigue from a long season as they make their late summer push to the post-season.
But for a few hundred little leaguers around the country and around the world, the “dog days” are long behind them. This is the post-season. This is the World Series. This is Williamsport.
America’s (junior) Pastime will be represented by America’s Finest City, along with 7 other teams around the nation, as well as teams from around the world, as they are all contending to become what every young baseball player dreams of…Little League World Series Champions.
This is the 5th time in the past 15 years that San Diego will be sending a team to Williamsport, PA for the tournament. The last time San Diego was in the LLWS, represented by Eastlake Little League (Less than 10 miles from this year’s Sweetwater Valley team), the boys won the United States title, but fell to Japan 6-4 in the championship game. Sweetwater Valley and their explosive offense look to have a different end to the story this summer.
The boys from Chula Vista punched their ticket to Williamsport on Saturday evening by defeating the Hawaii state champions, but not without some late inning drama. After a big start, putting up five runs in the first inning, as Sweetwater Valley did throughout the regional tournament (outscoring their four opponents 50-22), Hawaii answered back in the bottom half of the inning with four runs of their own. Sweetwater would tack on another nine runs over the next few innings and take a 12-4 lead into the bottom of the 6th inning, 3 outs away from the Little League World Series. Then it got interesting.
After 5 scoreless innings, the Hawaii state champs refused to go quietly. After 2 quick outs, Hawaii rattled off 5 straight runs and had Sweetwater Valley in a tense spot that they were not used to being in. With two outs, Alexander Armenti hit a ground ball back to the pitcher, which would have sealed the game for California, but an errant throw to first base by pitcher Levi Mendez allowed a run to score from third. The baserunner on first torched the base paths and was sent home to try and bring the game within 1, and the winning run at the plate. But Sweetwater got the ball to home plate, catching the Hawaiian runner dead in his tracks. It was a good old fashioned pickle.
Sage-Manuel Koahou tried to do his best Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez impression, but the tag was made by Mendez, the final out was reached, and Sweetwater Valley Little League punched their ticket to The Little League World Series.
The LLWS begins on Thursday August 20th from Williamsport, PA and can be viewed on ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, and WatchESPN. Sweetwater’s first game of the tournament is scheduled for 4pm against Bowling Green Eastern Little League who represent the Great Lakes Region. In the last 6 years, California has had 2 LLWS champions, including Chula Vista in 2009, and most recently Huntington Beach in 2011. It was in 2013 that Chula Vista was runner up, so continuing the tradition of “odd year” success, Sweetwater Valley looks to bring home the title in here in 2015.
This will undoubtedly be some of the most special days of these boys’ lives, competing on the world stage with their friends and families supporting them from Pennsylvania and around the world. Sweetwater Valley Little League…San Diego is proud of you!