Braydon Salzman, one of the newest members of the Ocean View Little League… (Gene J. Puskar / Associated…)
Reporting from South Williamsport, Pa. — Sometimes assistant coaches know best.
When the Ocean View Little League team from Huntington Beach held its first practice June 15, assistant coach Tony Cianca, whose son Justin is an infielder on the team, did some research.
"Tony's our eternal optimist," Manager Jeff Pratto said Saturday while he and his son Nick grabbed lunch at a local mall. "Before our first practice, Tony went online and bought a West champion's jersey and hung it in the dugout. He hung that up every day until we made it here. I thought that was a little brash, but maybe it was a good idea."
Indeed, Ocean View is representing the West well at the Little League World Series.
The team opened with an 11-0 victory over the New England representative, Cumberland, R.I., Friday.
La Grange, Ky., meanwhile, beat local favorite Keystone Little League from nearby Clinton County, Pa., 1-0 on Friday in front of a record-setting crowd of 41,848 at Lamade Stadium, and will face Ocean View on Sunday.
Griffin McLarty, who is one of three 6-footers in the tournament (Warner Robins, Ga., catcher Jordan Hampton and Darryl Jamoena, a pitcher for the European champion Netherlands team, are the others), was both the winning pitcher for La Grange and also scored the game's only run with a homer.
But while La Grange showed how one player can carry a team for a game, Ocean View proved how everyone contributing makes winning easier.
The Huntington Beach team got 11 hits against Rhode Island and three pitchers combined for the shutout.
Jeff Pratto said he has been watching most of the kids on the Ocean View team playing for various Southern California teams for four or five years. Some have been stars from the beginning he said. Some have blossomed more recently.
"Jack Furry, Dylan Palmer [and] Ryo Takada have always been in the leagues, but they got a whole lot better when they made the 11-year-old team last year," Pratto said.
Furry is a 5-foot-8, 131-pound pitcher and outfielder who is the tallest player on the roster. Takada is a 5-6, 167-pounder who is the team's heaviest player. Palmer is 5-2 and 132 pounds and is one of the quickest players.
One of the newest members to the group was Ocean View's winning pitcher Friday, Braydon Salzman.
"Salzman's only been in our league two years," Pratto said. "He actually lived in the Ocean View district but had a waiver to play in Robinwood League near Marina High. In the 9- and 10-year-old league, he was the only pitcher to beat us in the district. But we ended up beating his team finally and then he wanted to be at Ocean View."
Winning does help change minds.
And now Ocean View has rolled to a 19-1 record through the tournament season, losing only once in its three games against Rancho Mission Viejo, 6-5. Among the American teams here, La Grange has the most losses (three), including two straight to begin the season.
In elimination games Saturday, Warner Robins, Ga., beat Rapid City, S.D., 6-3, and Taiwan defeated Aruba, 20-3, in four innings.