Members of the world champion Ocean View Little League team celebrate with… (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
The Ocean View Little League team received the red-carpet treatment upon its return to Huntington Beach on Monday night.
Arriving to chants of "OV," and, "USA," the players were greeted by an enthusiastic crowd that came out to support the 2011 Little League World Series champions. The players showed their poise as they stood before the gathering, a fireworks display illuminating the backdrop of the team as it stood in front of the league's playing fields at Murdy Park.
Ocean View completed a two-month postseason run on Sunday by defeating defending champion Japan, 2-1, at South Williamsport, Pa., to become the first Little League team from Orange County to win the title.
"I will say that winning the World Series is great, but it really doesn't compare to this right here," Ocean View coach Tony Cianca told a crowd of about 800, which responded with cheers and whistles. "This is unbelievable."
The last two days have been nothing short of a whirlwind for Ocean View.
On Monday, the team traveled to Cleveland and then Houston before making its stretch run to Los Angeles International Airport and then to its home turf.
Only upon seeing the massive gathering at Murdy Park did everything begin to sink in for Justin Cianca.
"I thought that there would be a lot of people here to support us, but when we got off the bus, I was shocked," said Cianca, who turned 13 on Monday. "Once I got off the bus and saw the crowd, that's when it all hit me, what we had done. It's crazy and incredible, something I won't forget. This is the best birthday ever."
It took one big swing by Steven Kotkosky on Aug. 13, to get Ocean View to Williamsport. His two-run home run in the top of the sixth inning wiped out a 1-0 deficit in the West Regional final against Red Bluff of Northern California and sent Ocean View to its first World Series.
Kotkosky and his teammates were a big hit during their homecoming.
"It's all been so amazing," the 12-year-old said. "It was so great to meet other teams from around the country and around the world but coming home here, to this, really is the best part. It's something I'll always remember."
Eric Anderson said he barely remembered crossing home plate with the winning run Sunday.
Anderson, a pinch runner, scored from third on Nick Pratto's game-winning hit with two out in the bottom of the sixth inning.
"I was thinking to myself, if Nick gets a base hit, I have to score," Anderson said. "I just took off when I saw the ball go to the outfield. I don't remember jumping up like I did, excited that we had won. All I can remember about the play is everybody rushing out of our dugout and getting mugged. It was the best feeling."
Ocean View won District 62, Section 10, Southern California Region and West Regional tournament championships to earn its trip to Williamsport.
"It's amazing what these kids have accomplished," Huntington Beach Mayor Joe Carchio said during the homecoming ceremony. "I'm just so proud of what they did not only for Huntington Beach, but for the county, the state and the United States of America. These kids set a great example by being great role models and ambassadors for our city. They won their World Series title with timely hitting, great pitching and a superb coaching staff. They played as a team."