Valley Chatsworth has followed an unusually difficult path to the American Legion World Series.
"But we made it and that's what counts," said Coach Tom Meusborn, whose team will play traditional power Brooklawn, N.J., at 2 p.m. PDT today in the first round of pool play at Palmer Field in Middletown, Conn.
Valley Chatsworth (40-7) won the Western Regional on Monday night in Las Vegas, upsetting host Silverado, 13-8.
It was the 11th time Valley Chatsworth won a game while facing postseason elimination.
Tournament officials were so sure Valley Chatsworth would lose, they made plane reservations under the names of the Silverado players and coaches.
The foul-up caused delays for Valley Chatsworth at McCarron Airport in Las Vegas and O'Hare Airport in Chicago on Wednesday, turning a five-hour trip into a nine-hour odyssey.
"We had to run through the terminal [in Chicago] to catch our connecting flight," pitcher-outfielder Scott Sellz said. "It reminded me of Home Alone."
Valley Chatsworth is the fourth team from the region to reach the World Series since it began in 1926 and will try to bring home the championship for the third time in 11 years.
"We're fired up for the chance," pitcher Ryan Robbins said.
Woodland Hills West won the title in 1989 and Newbury Oaks won in 1992.
San Fernando-Sylmar advanced to the series in 1973.
On Thursday, Meusborn had yet to decide on an opening-night starting pitcher from among Mike Kunes (6-1), Sellz (8-3), Robbins (8-0) and Charles Kenny (10-0).
Kunes pitched 19 innings in five days at Las Vegas, including seven shutout innings of relief on Monday night.
He finished the regional with a 1.84 earned-run average and a .556 batting average.
Shortstop Matt Fisher hit a regional-best .630 (17 for 27) for Valley Chatsworth, which batted .412. Sellz led all hitters with 17 runs batted in.
Valley Chatsworth will play Brighton, Minn., (60-4) on Saturday and Edmond, Okla., (42-3) on Sunday in pool-play games.
Portland, Maine, (32-4), Gallatin, Tenn., (48-15), Bloomington, Minn., (35-11), and Kennewick, Wash., (50-13) comprise the other bracket.
The top two teams from each four-team bracket advance to the semifinals on Monday.
The championship game, at 7 p.m. Tuesday, will be televised by ESPN.
Brooklawn is making its seventh World Series appearance and second in a row.
Brooklawn, 1991 national champion, yielded 53 runs and was 0-3 last year in the series.
Seven players return from that team, including pitcher Pat Sperone, who was 2-0 with a 1.69 ERA in the Mid-Atlantic Regional. John Oehler batted .600 with 11 RBIs in the regional.
Kunes, Fisher, Sellz, Robbins and center fielder Chad Redfern all return from the 1997 Valley Chatsworth team that fell one victory short of qualifying for the World Series.
All but Fisher graduated from Chatsworth High in June.
"This is the last time we'll be able to play together," Kunes said. "I couldn't think of a better way to go out."
American Legion World Series
at Middletown, Conn.
All times PDT
Edmond, Okla., vs. New Brighton, Minn., 7 a.m.
Valley Chatsworth vs. Brooklawn, N.J., 2 p.m.
New Brighton vs. Valley Chatsworth, 10 a.m.
Edmond vs. Brooklawn, 5 p.m.
Edmond vs. Valley Chatsworth, 7 a.m.
Brooklawn vs. New Brighton, 2 p.m.
Gallatin, Tenn., vs. Bloomington, Minn., 10 a.m.
Kennewick, Wash., vs. Portland, Maine, 5 p.m.
Bloomington vs. Kennewick, 7 a.m.
Portland vs. Gallatin, 2 p.m.
Kennewick vs. Gallatin, 10 a.m.
Bloomington vs. Portland, 5 p.m.
Pool winners will play pool runners-up in semifinals on Monday. Championship will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday.