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Ocean View advances to Little League World Series championship

Huntington Beach's Ocean View defeats Montana, its friends on and off the field, 11-2. Next up: Japan in the Little League World Series championship game.

August 27, 2011|By Diane Pucin
  • Pearce Kurth of Billings, Mont., walks past Ocean View players celebrating their 11-2 victory in the U.S. championship game of the Little League World Series on Saturday in South Williamsport, Pa.
Pearce Kurth of Billings, Mont., walks past Ocean View players celebrating… (Rob Carr / Getty Images )

Reporting from South Williamsport, Pa. — It was a moment between friends — two teams that have bonded over pingpong and video games and baseball over the last three weeks — when the winners gathered in the losers for a shared picture-taking moment Saturday at Lamade Stadium after the U.S. championship game at the Little League World Series.

Ocean View, representing Huntington Beach, California and the West Region, earned its spot in the championship game Sunday against Japan by beating the Big Sky Little League team from Billings, Mont., the representatives from the Northwest Region, 11-2.

The California and Montana players had become friends when both won regionals in San Bernardino, then traveled together to Williamsport last week.

The Ocean View team will try to become the second California team in three years to win the title when it plays Japan in a game scheduled for 9 a.m. Pacific time.

Japan beat Mexico, 5-2, in the international championship game Saturday.

Ocean View had lost to Montana, 1-0, on Wednesday when Ben Askelson hit a walk-off home run. But Saturday, the West team seemed focused on scoring early.

Hagen Danner led off the game with a double and scored a run, and in the top of the second, third baseman Dylan Palmer hit a two-run home run that ended up being the game-winner.

It was only Palmer's second hit in the series, and his teammates pounded on his back when he came across the plate.

"That's my first home run of the whole all-star season," Palmer said. "It's just crazy."

Danner, who was three for four, and Nick Pratto, who pitched 51/3 scoreless innings while striking out 10 and going two for four with three runs batted in, both spoke of what it meant to be the U.S. champions.

"It's a dream come true," Danner said. "Last year our team lost, and we saw Hawaii win it, and we thought if they made it, we could."

Nick Pratto, son of Manager Jeff Pratto, said he doesn't expect to feel the full impact of the win until he's back home.

"You can't describe it," he said. "Once you experience it, it's a lot better than what you imagined."

Nick Pratto had also pitched four scoreless innings against Montana on Wednesday and said he had learned from the experience.

"It helped me experiment a little," he said. "I knew what pitches to throw and where to spot my fastball."

After giving up one unearned run in the third inning, Ocean View scored twice in the fourth and fifth and four times in the sixth to take an 11-1 lead.

When Nick Pratto reached his allowed pitch count after getting Connor Kieckbusch to strike out swinging, he moved to first base and ducked his head in embarrassment at all the applause.

Reliever Braydon Salzman, who is to start for Ocean View against Japan, gave up a long home run to Montana's Cole McKenzie, and the emotional Salzman was talking to himself as McKenzie scored. After giving up a single to Askelson and a walk to Andy Maehl, Jeff Pratto pulled Salzman, and Trevor Windisch got the final out.

Montana Manager Gene Carlson said the difference between his team's 1-0 win and the loss Saturday was simple: "They did a better job of taking advantage of opportunities," he said.

Ocean View is trying to become the seventh California team to win the Little League World Series. Most recently, Park View of Chula Vista won in 2009. Japan, represented by a team from Tokyo, won the 2010 championship game against Hawaii.

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