They're going the distance

The wide divide between Williamsport, Pa., and Huntington Beach, has closed significantly for the Ocean View Little League (12-year-old) All-Star team.

That 2,289 mile gap has been reduced to a mere two steps.

Ocean View went 3-1 in pool play at the Little League Baseball Western Regional in San Bernardino in the past week to reserve a spot in the tournament's semifinals. Southern California champion Ocean View, which won its first three games before being bumped off Tuesday by Northern California champ Napa National Little League, will play at either 2 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. Friday, depending on the semifinal seed the locals receive. That seed depended on the outcome of Wednesday's two final pool play games.

Ocean View Manager Tod Minato said his team could be the first or second seed.

Regardless of its seed, this is the furthest the league has advanced in San Bernardino since 2000 when Ocean View lost in the regional final.

A member of that Ocean View team, Hank Conger, gave the team a pep talk last week prior to the start of the Western Regional, Minato said.

"He called them last week to congratulate them and wish them luck," he said of Conger, a 2006 first-round draft pick by the Angels now playing Triple-A ball in Salt Lake City. "He talked to the kids about his experience at the Western Regional and how he cherished that experience."

"It feels good to be this far in the tournament," Ocean View pitcher Logan Pouelsen said. "Our hitting has really come alive. Our whole team is on fire."

The six teams in the Western Regional played four pool-play games during the past six days. Now, the tournament becomes a single-elimination event. The winners of the two semifinal games Friday will meet for the Western Regional championship at 5 p.m. Sunday.

The semifinals and regional final will be televised either by ESPN or ESPN2.

The winner of Sunday's game advances to the Little League World Series in Williamsport.

Ocean View (Southern California), Napa National (Northern California, North Scottsdale (Arizona), Waipio (Hawaii), Mountain Ridge (Nevada) and Washington (Utah) are the Little League (12-year-old) All-Star teams in the Western Regional.

Napa National played Washington (Utah) and Waipio (Hawaii) battled North Scottsdale (Arizona) in Wednesday's final games that will determine the semifinal seeding for the top four teams. The scores from those games weren't available at press time.

On Tuesday, Ocean View suffered it's first tournament loss, 5-4, to Napa National. Two of Ocean View's runs were scored on either a passed ball or wild pitch.

"We really didn't hit the ball that well tonight," Minato said. "We didn't want to waste our pitching and we wanted to play it loose. I think this was a good wake-up call for us."

Ocean View started the week with an early Monday morning (9:30 a.m.) mercy-rule victory over Washington Little League of Utah. Hagen Danner had a monster game for Ocean View with two home runs, in addition to throwing four innings of shutout ball in a 22-0 victory, the largest margin of victory to date in the tournament.

Danner went four for four with five RBI and five runs scored. Steven Gingery delivered the game's big blast, a grand slam shot during a 13-run fifth inning that was said to measure 296 feet and sailed over the outfield lights in left field. Pouelsen homered and doubled twice to account for three runs and also scored three times. Chad Minato pitched the fifth and retired Washington's final three batters to close out game.

Ocean View began the regional last Friday with a 10-3 victory over Mountain Ridge Little League of Las Vegas in the opening game of the tournament. Gingery powered the Ocean View offense with a four-for-four performance that included a three-run home run, five RBI and two runs scored. Hunter Jackson had an RBI single and Hunter Simmons an RBI grounder. Danner got his first pitching win of the tournament.

"I think we're doing pretty good and hope we can continue on this run," said Ocean View outfielder Michael Green, who had a hit during Monday's one-sided win. "Everyone is contributing in all of our wins so far."

The next day, Ocean View edged Waipio Little League of Waipahu, Hawaii, 2-1. Gingery again had a big hand in the win by driving in both Ocean View runs, one on a fourth-inning home run, and limiting Waipio to five hits.

Waipio won the Western Regional in 2008 and parlayed the title into a World Series championship.

For the four semifinalists, it's now a one game season.

"It's been exciting for the kids," Minato said. "There are 10,000 people out here, it's loud and there are plenty of distractions. We try to tell the kids that despite what's going on all around them, the game is exactly the same."

Pouelsen had the right mind set heading into Friday's semifinal game.

"In the tournament, we have just pretended that every game is our biggest game of the year," he said.

Minato said he wasn't sure who he would start on the mound Friday, saying "it depends on who we play."

The Ocean View Little League All-Stars are: Hagen Danner, Armando Duarte, Michael Gates, Steven Gingery, Michael Green, Corey Hawk, Hunter Jackson, Chad Minato, Logan Pouelsen, Nick Pratto, Hunter Simmons and Luke Williams. The team is managed by Tod Minato and Coach Sean Pouelsen.

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