Huntington Beach Ocean View is heading to the Little League World Series.
The 11- and 12-year-old All-Star team from Huntington Beach won the Little League West Regional tournament championship in San Bernardino on Saturday by rallying to defeat Red Bluff of Northern California, 2-1. The Little League World Series starts Thursday. Ocean View will play Rhode Island on Friday.
Ocean View completed a weeklong run Saturday by staging a sixth-inning rally before a crowd of 13,870 at Al Houghton Stadium. It trailed for five innings but needed just two pitches at the start of the sixth to take the lead for good. Nick Pratto opened with a triple to the right-field corner off Red Bluff starter Wesley Clawson, then cleanup hitter Steven Kotkosky drilled a low curveball off reliever Lane Pritchard for a home run to deep center field.
All that was left was for Ocean View starter Hagen Danner to finish off Red Bluff, which he did by retiring the side. Danner struck out 13 of the final 15 batters he faced.
"Really, we were down, 1-0, but it was no fault of Hagen's," Ocean View Manager Jeff Pratto said. Red Bluff "had only three hits, and although we were down, Hagen just did a great job pounding his fast ball.
"We willed ourselves at the end not to lose. When Nick started with that triple, I thought, this is our time, our destiny. Then Steven came up with that big hit to give us the lead."
Red Bluff took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, when leadoff hitter Austin Youngblood reached base on an error and scored on a single by Pritchard. Ocean View had just two hits off Clawson through five innings before Pratto's hit in the sixth.
Pratto raised his fist triumphantly and ignited the Ocean View crowd.
"This is unbelievable," said Nick Pratto, who is one of two returning players from Ocean View's All-Star team that reached San Bernardino last year. The other is Danner. "We had it last year but gave it away. I'm happy to get a second chance."
Saturday marked the third time in the last 12 years that an Ocean View team has played for the West Region championship. The 2000 team, which included Hank Conger of the Angels, lost, 3-2, to Hazel Dell, Wash. Last year, Ocean View fell to Waipio of Hawaii, 4-1, in the title game.