Huntington Valley drops state tournament opener to Villa Park
Coming off a momentous victory in the Section 10 tournament title game, Huntington Valley Little League finds itself in a familiar spot during the All-Star tournament season following Saturday’s game.
Huntington Valley fell to Villa Park 4-0 in its opening game of the Southern California state tournament at Fountain Valley Sports Park.
It marks the third time that Huntington Valley has lost its first game of a tournament during the Little League 12-and-under All-Star schedule.
Huntington Valley was able to play its way through the loser’s bracket, and ultimately advance, in the District 62 and Section 10 tournaments.
“We can battle back like the times we did in districts and sectionals,” Huntington Valley center fielder Luke Miller said.
Huntington Valley is 9-0 in elimination games. Following the loss, the local team will be back in action on Sunday at 3 p.m. at Fountain Valley Sports Park.
“You never know with this group, to be honest with you,” Huntington Valley coach Clint Guth said. “It’s obviously going to be a lot tougher climbing out in state. There’s 10 teams here, and there’s 10 good teams.
“This is a game of inches. We hit balls right at guys today, and they had some stuff that just fell into some spots, so that’s baseball. Got to come back tomorrow.”
Miller led Huntington Valley offensively with two hits, including a bunt single in the third inning. Brendon Krans, Caden McNiven, Jonathan Vandagriff and Charlie Stubin each had one hit.
Huntington Valley had opportunities in the first two innings, but Villa Park starting pitcher Bennett Hansen was able to strand two runners in both of those frames.
“His nickname is Hollywood because the bigger the game, the bigger he pitches,” Villa Park coach Ben Hanna said.
Hansen pitched into the sixth inning, allowing six hits and striking out four.
Villa Park scored two runs in the third inning and added a pair in the fourth inning.
Second baseman Ben Hanna, who had two hits and two runs scored, hit a ground ball that got past a diving effort by shortstop Brady Guth and into center field.
Miller’s throw to third was on target, but the lead runner Dylan Malkemus was safe under the tag.
Austin Kalma dropped a single into right field, one of three hits for the Villa Park third baseman, to score the first run of the game. A sacrifice fly by Owen Dunne made it 2-0.
Kalma added another run batted in the next inning on an infield single up the third-base line. He attributed his three-hit performance to practice.
“Just practicing, getting reps and swings whenever I can, and just seeing the ball really well,” Kalma said.
Villa Park coach Ben Hanna said that Villa Park Little League is one of the smaller leagues around, but his team continues to compete.
“This is only our second appearance ever this far in the state tournament,” he said. “Our Little League, we’re a very small Little League. We only had two major teams this year, so our team’s a collection of only 24 eligible players.”
Right fielder Ely Mason had an outfield assist, throwing out a runner at third base following a flyout in the fifth. It was one of several strong plays in the outfield by both teams.
“Our whole outfield, they have arms, so we can throw people out taking the bases,” Clint Guth said.
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