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LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES : Northridge Players Resilient in Defeat

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Little League World Series championship had been lost in agonizing fashion, and a group of mothers wanted to give their sons great big hugs.

But they weren’t allowed to do so by Little League officials, who whisked the Northridge team from the field to a cafeteria where dinner was served to all eight teams who participated in the Series.

“This is when you remember they are 12 years old,” said Vicki Fisher, mother of shortstop Matt Fisher. “Their little hearts are broken.”

Yet their hearts mend more quickly than many adults realize.

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The players ate together at a long table, and within minutes they were horsing around and sharing laughs. Having as much fun as anyone was Justin Gentile, the losing pitcher in the 4-3 defeat at the hands of Maracaibo, Venezuela, on Saturday.

Gentile tugged on his cap, laughed, and shoveled food into his mouth. Losing did not curb appetites.

Besides, Northridge was champion of the United States. This loss did not take that away, and everyone reminded one another of that.

“One run separated the best two teams in the world,” said Eric Gordon, father of Spencer Gordon. “These teams came from different continents, almost parallel universes, and playing the same game, they were so evenly matched it was incredible.”

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Other parents thought of the boost the team had given their embattled hometown.

“These boys gave a championship to a city that has been through an earthquake,” said Bobbe Nesbit, mother of outfielder Michael Nesbit. “It was a great game, and we should all say it together, they are the United States champions.”

The game was delayed three hours when a storm complete with booming thunder and bolts of lightning passed over the field. The consensus among Northridge supporters was that the delay took away momentum from their team.

The players agreed, but handled the defeat with class.

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“Venezuela played a real good game and we have to congratulate them,” said Matt Fisher between spoonfuls of ice cream. “They played better than we did after the delay.”

Fisher wished he could have spent time with his parents, and added that his teammates shared his feelings. “I wanted to talk to my mom but I couldn’t because we had to do this,” he said.

Most of the parents drove rental cars to Philadelphia late Saturday night because they were flying home from there early today. They reluctantly left, having spent no more than a minute with their sons after the game.

“I am disappointed, but this is typical of the way (parents) have been treated all week, so I am not surprised,” said Lynn Wallis, mother of third baseman Gregg Wallis.

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Today, however, the parents get their sons back for good. There will be plenty of activity for the team for a couple of weeks, and everyone is braced for it.

“It is going to be very exciting,” said Sharmie Drake, mother of Scott Drake Jr., “These boys have given us so much.”


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