Many thrilling games and moments occurred throughout the 2014 Little League season.
Some local teams repeated achievements from a season ago, like the Arroyo Seco Saints returning to the Palomino World Series and several squads repeating as champions in their respective branches. The San Gabriel Valley Babe Ruth All-Star 16-18 team also returned to the World Series.
Many players excelled on diamonds around the area before taking their talents to other regions. And there were plenty of wild moments along the way, including walk-off victories.
The following is a recap of the area's Little League season.
With St. Francis High Coach Aaron Milam leading the charge, the Arroyo Seco Saints enjoyed another fine summer that concluded with them reaching the World Series at the Major League Baseball Urban Youth Academy in Compton for the fourth straight season.
Reaching the semifinals of the World Series for the third straight year put a bow on the season for the Saints, who featured a handful of St. Francis High products and several Glendale Community College players.
Arroyo Seco began the postseason competing in the PONY Southern California Regional Tournament at Jackie Robinson Field in Pasadena. It reached the championship game before falling, 7-4, to the Orange County Bolt. The Saints grabbed one of the two spots from the tournament to advance to the West Zone Tournament in Compton.
Arroyo Seco posted an opening 4-1 win against the San Jose PAL Giants. The Saints then suffered a 7-6 loss to the South Bay Legacy before turning things around. They won three straight elimination games, including beating the Legacy two straight games to reach the championship game and received a berth into the World Series. Arroyo Seco fell, 11-7, to Urban Youth Academy1 in the title game.
“Now we can look forward to being in the World Series,” said Andres Kim, a St. Francis product and the lone returner from last season’s team that advanced to the semifinals in the World Series.
Returning to Compton, the Saints began the World Series with an 11-4 win against Texas. Arroyo Seco then suffered a 4-3 loss against Urban Youth Academy2 to drop into the loser’s bracket. Pitcher Kevin Baker pitched a no-hitter for the Saints in an elimination game against Central Michigan. Dustin Shirley hit a grand slam for the Saints in the 11-1 win against Mexico. Forced to partake in another elimination game that same day, Arroyo Seco’s season came to a close with an 11-1 defeat against Urban Youth Academy2.
“Three years in a row we got to the exact same place: the semifinals of the World Series,” Milam said. “One of these days we’ll find out what the right formula is.
“As locked in as they were, the guys are tired. We just ran out of gas.”
BABE RUTH ALL-STARS
Following a several-year break, the San Gabriel Valley 16-18 team, which featured several Crescenta Valley High products and Glendale Community College athletes, found itself back in the mix. Coached by Crescenta Valley baseball skipper Phil Torres, San Gabriel Valley, formed in mid-July, made plenty of noise and marched to the semifinals in the World Series in Ephrata, Wash.
Led by the consistent pitching of Brian Gadsby, San Gabriel Valley won two tournaments before qualifying for the World Series. Unfortunately, San Gabriel Valley’s bid for its first championship since 2007 fell short.
San Gabriel Valley began the playoffs with a best-of-three series against Long Beach Heartwell in the Southern California Regional at Stengel Field. It suffered a 9-7 loss in the championship game before regrouping to post a 9-1 win in the if-necessary title contest and reach the Pacific Southwest Regional in Modesto.
San Gabriel Valley started off the tournament with a 7-0 win against Sacramento before falling, 2-1, to Modesto. In an elimination game, San Gabriel Valley picked up a 7-0 win against San Benito to reach the championship game against Modesto. It then bested Modesto twice in one day to punch its ticket to the World Series. San Gabriel Valley recorded a 2-0 win against Modesto in the championship game before rallying to post a 4-3 victory in the if-necessary title contest. Nick Carino of San Gabriel Valley had a game-winning two-run double in the fourth inning of the deciding contest.
“We have a lot of players who have received all-league, All-CIF and all-conference honors, so they know what they are doing,” said Torres, who returned to coach the team after a two-year hiatus.
At the World Series, San Gabriel Valley found itself in the American Division and went 3-1 in four pool-play games. It started off with a 7-2 victory against the Columbia Basin River Dogs. San Gabriel Valley then picked up a 9-3 win against Tri-Counties of Pennsylvania that included a three-run home run by Raul Camas of GCC. It then posted a 3-2 win against the Charlestown Fighting Squirrels of Missouri. San Gabriel Valley scored a pair of runs in the top of the seventh inning to take a 3-2 advantage, capped by a sacrifice fly by Alex Labor.
San Gabriel Valley fell, 6-2, to Alabama, which would go on to capture the championship. Inclement weather forced San Gabriel Valley’s quarterfinal game against the Columbia Basin Desert Dogs to be postponed by one day. San Gabriel Valley notched a 12-2 win before suffering a tough 1-0 semifinals defeat against Klamath Falls of Oregon.
Gadsby struck out 10 in the loss and allowed one earned run in 14 innings in the World Series.
“We had our first practice as a team back on July 14 and we came close to getting to the championship game [of the World Series],” Torres said. “They did an outstanding job and we had a great run.
“I know the guys who will be coming back next year will want to do it again.”
The Glendale/La Crescenta Babe Ruth 13-year-old team reached the Southern California Tournament, which it hosted. It started with a 13-3 loss against Simi Valley and then followed up with a 9-3 win against Long Beach Heartwell before falling, 6-5, to Simi Valley.
In El Segundo, the Glendale/La Crescenta 15s, opened with a tough 2-1 loss before rebounding with a 9-5 win over Heartwell before getting eliminated by host El Segundo, 7-0.
DISTRICT 16 TRI-CITIES
Jewel City/Jewish War Veterans Arnol’s Angels triumphed in the Minor Softball Knockout Tournament, defeating Crescenta Valley Ample Power, 7-2.
On the baseball diamond, the Foothill Hawks bested Jewel City/JWV Mauerhan Plumbing, 12-0, in four innings to win the Minor title.
The Crescenta Valley Red Hots Major softball squad, paced by Taylor Hoogenhuizen, posted an 8-5 win against rival Burbank Ruthless to capture the title.
In Major baseball, Crescenta Valley Landry’s received one home run apiece from Bryson Reeves, Vincent Parrott, Jade Low and Devon Ramaker to secure a 10-5 win against Burbank.
The Crescenta Valley-Vaquero Bullets scored 11 runs over the final three innings to defeat the Tujunga Intensity, 11-3, in the District 16 Junior Tri-Cities softball championship.
DISTRICT 16 ALL-STARS
The Glendale Little League Junior Softball All-Star team, featuring players from Crescenta Valley, Foothill and Jewish War Veterans, captured the title with a 12-2 win against Tujunga. Allison Alzate stood out in the circle, as she scattered three hits to lead Glendale to a victory in the tournament’s if-necessary championship contest.
“The adrenaline was rushing and it means a lot [to win the championship],” said Alzate, who pitched all six innings and helped Glendale bounce back from a 6-3 defeat against Tujunga in the championship game. “I tried my hardest and pounded the ball inside. We played good defense.”
The Major All-Stars softball team of Crescenta Valley-Foothill-Jewel City/Jewish War Veterans players posted an 8-6 win against Burbank in the championship contest. It began the tournament with a 15-5 win versus Burbank.
Crescenta Valley’s 9-10 All-Star baseball team has the luxury of having a talented and deep stable of pitchers. In the championship game, three pitchers combined on a no-hitter to propel Crescenta Valley to an 8-0 win against Foothill in the title game. The trio combined to strike out 11 in the process.
Luca Cuneo started on the hill for Crescenta Valley, going two innings, striking out five and walking two. He was relieved in the third by Noah Maddox, who went 2 2/3 innings and notched five strikeouts. Diego Robles finished it for Crescenta Valley, getting one strikeout.
The Vaquero 10-11 Baseball All-Star team saw Raymond Cejudo have quite a performance with the bat. Cejudo had two hits and drove in four runs to propel Vaquero to an 11-4 win against Tujunga in the championship contest.
Behind a bevy of extra-base hits, the Crescenta Valley Major Baseball All-Stars bashed their way to championship with a convincing 14-1 win against Burbank-Tujunga. David Melendez and Braedon Bentzon each had key two-run singles to help Crescenta Valley pull away.
Crescenta Valley’s Junior Baseball All-Star team topped Burbank, 7-1, to win the if-necessary title game.
Advancing to the next stage were four local baseball and a pair of softball teams. Unfortunately for each squad, none could advance beyond Section 2 action.
The Crescenta Valley Major baseball team reached the championship game with a 5-2 win against West Lancaster. It then registered a 14-3 win against Encino before losing, 5-3, in the if-necessary title game.
“It says a lot about this team that we were able to come back and make it to the championship game,” Crescenta Valley Manager Brett Ramaker said. “But it’s no surprise. We have 13 or 14 kids who are great ballplayers and they will continue to be great ball players when they leave Little League.”
The Crescenta Valley Junior baseball squad arrived on the doorstep of possibly winning the championship. But, Encino bounced back to register a 7-2 win in the championship game and a 5-3 victory in the if-necessary championship contest.
“It was a special group that I coached and I’m proud of them,” Crescenta Valley Manager Bryan Rich said. “We fought until the end, but we ran into an Encino team that was good, really good.
“Maybe if a couple of things go differently it’s a different score, but I can’t be disappointed. This is baseball and a good team moved on.”
In softball, the Crescenta Valley/Foothill/Jewish War Veterans Major softball team dropped a 6-2 decision to Quartz Hill in the championship game.
In Junior softball, Vaquero/Foothill/Crescenta Valley fell, 14-4, in the championship contest against Granada Hills.
“This was a green team that really gained some valuable experience,” Glendale Junior Coach Will Thayer said. “They put in five weeks of work and had four-hour practices on the weekend. They just ran into a very good team.”
The Crescenta Valley 9-10 baseball team lost to Quartz Hill, 23-20, in a wild elimination game. The Vaquero 10-12 baseball team lost its two Section 2 contests.
Follow Charles Rich on Twitter: @TCNCharlesRich .