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Little Leaguers Playing Large

Rancho Cucamonga's Vineyard team is one win away from the World Series.

August 12, 2003|Dan Arritt | Times Staff Writer

Ever since Little League baseball dropped single-elimination play from its tournament format 12 years ago, many all-star teams have benefited from their additional lifelines.

Perhaps no team has taken more advantage than Vineyard Little League of Rancho Cucamonga, which will play Chandler (Ariz.) National tonight in the championship game of the Western Regional in San Bernardino. The winner goes to the Little League World Series, which begins Friday in Williamsport, Pa.

Vineyard has lost five of 23 games this summer but is unbeaten when its back has been against the wall. Vineyard is 5-0 in rematches with teams it lost to in earlier all-star games this summer.

Vineyard enjoyed its most recent payback Sunday in a 14-2 semifinal victory over Green Valley of Henderson, Nev., burning a trail in the basepaths until the game was stopped by the mercy rule. Green Valley had defeated Vineyard, 5-2, in round-robin play last week.

Coach Richard Reyes can't account for the resiliency of his team of 11- and 12-year-olds, which includes his son, Tommy. They just seem to love the game.

"I asked the kids if they wanted to go swimming or take batting practice [Saturday], and they all wanted to practice," Reyes said.

Reyes hopes that the run will continue tonight against Chandler, which is 15-1, including a 3-0 victory Friday over Vineyard in the teams' final round-robin game.

Vineyard also bounced back from a loss in District 21 play against Citrus Little League of Rancho Cucamonga, winning back-to-back games to take the title for the third time in four years. In the Section 7 tournament, Vineyard lost to Magnolia of Riverside in a round-robin game but beat Magnolia in the final.

In the Division 3 final, Vineyard lost its opening game to Cajon De Oro of La Mesa, but rallied to win six consecutive games, including a 4-3 victory over Cajon De Oro that was highlighted by a three-run home run by Tommy Reyes.

Vineyard advanced to the Western Regional with back-to-back shutouts of Temecula Valley.

Climbing from the losers' bracket has required Vineyard to play more games than many of its opponents, but that hasn't proved detrimental, Reyes said.

"We like playing every day," said the general contractor and father of five. "We don't like waiting around."

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Little League

* What: Western Regional title game.

* Who: Vineyard of Rancho Cucamonga vs. Chandler (Ariz.) National.

* When: Tonight, 7.

* Where: Al Houghton Stadium, San Bernardino.

* TV: ESPN2.

* At stake: Winner qualifies for Little League World Series, beginning Friday in Williamsport, Pa.

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