The path Ocean View Little League’s under-10 All-Stars must follow to snare a Southern California championship got a lot tougher Wednesday night.
And that’s OK, the Huntington Beach-based team says.
Thousand Oaks Little League used a big second inning, decent pitching and a couple of superb fielding plays to pull out a 5-2 triumph at Long Beach’s Stearns Champions Park, knocking Ocean View into the losers’ bracket. Rather than being two victories from the title, Ocean View (8-2) now needs to win five in a row to claim the big prize.
“In our district tournament, same exact thing,” Ocean View manager Pat Frohn said. “We won our first game, lost our second game, and then we came back. Obviously, it wasn’t a tournament as deep as this, with as many teams, but we came back through the losers’ bracket, and we won [the title]. I firmly believe we can do it again.”
The first step comes Thursday at 6 p.m. against Chula Vista, which followed its tournament-opening loss with two losers'-bracket victories. Win that, and there’s a showdown Saturday against Torrance or Claremont. Another win Sunday — against Thousand Oaks or Sherman Oaks — would send Ocean View to the final, in which it would have to win twice, on Monday and Tuesday.
“We’re pretty confident,” Ocean View starting pitcher Maxx Hopkins said. “We’ve been through this before, and all we’ve got to do is [what we did in the District 62 championship] and come back.”
Thousand Oaks (9-0) took charge with a four-run second inning, fueled by three opposite-field RBI doubles, and Ocean View had no answers, managing just three hits and pushing across just one earned run. The Ventura County team advanced to the winners’ bracket final and on Saturday evening will play Sherman Oaks, a 4-2 winner over Torrance, for a spot in the title game.
“The second inning’s tough,” Frohn said. “They were able to get the ball in play, down the lines [three times]. They had a little bleeder down here, little duck farts here and there. Their balls found gaps, ours were hit hard at people.
“And, honestly, our pitching wasn’t up to the standard that we hold ourselves to. We’ll just have to come back and battle through the losers’ bracket and come get them again.”
Ocean View went ahead in the top of the first inning. Benny Breese drew a one-out walk and was out at second when Thousand Oaks third baseman Mike Larkin dived to snag Luke Frohn’s hard-hit ball. Luke Crespo, who pinch-ran for Frohn, went to second on Thousand Oaks starter Dane Bacon’s wild pitch and scored on Hopkins’ single to center.
Thousand Oaks sent eight batters to the plate in bottom of the second against Hopkins, with Tyson Sideman’s one-out, dipping double down the right-field line bringing home the first run, Luke Jacobson’s two-out double down the left-field line scoring two more runs, and Larkin following with a double to right to make it 4-1.
Ocean View scored again in the third — Frohn walked, went to second on another Hopkins single, to third on a passed ball, and scored on Duncan McLeod’s groundout to second — and Thousand Oaks made it 5-2 in the bottom of the inning against reliever Crespo, with Preston Lee scoring his second run on Nate Curiale’s opposite-field single to left with two out.
Ocean View put two on base in the fifth, on a walk and an error, and Crespo led off the sixth with a single, but it could do little else against Ian Park, Thousand Oaks’ third pitcher. He struck out five in 2 2/3 innings.
“We just happened to hit it where they weren’t today and get away with one,” said Thousand Oaks manager Duane Burton. “That’s a great baseball team over there. That’s not the last we’ll see of Ocean View [in this tournament]. We’re sure of that.”
Pat Frohn said he told his players that “on the bright side, you get to play a lot of baseball the next few days.”
“They’re 10-year-old kids. They’re out there having fun,” he said. “They’ve already got smiles on their faces, the majority of them. It’s just a game. Trying to teach them the right things to do, the right way to play, how to handle defeat — how to handle it the right way — so that’s what we’re trying to do and getting them ready to come out tomorrow.”
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