Laguna one win away from district crown

Three impressive wins has catapulted the Laguna Beach Little League 9-year-old All-Star tournament team into the driver's seat of the District 55 All-Star Tournament.

Laguna took a spot in Saturday's championship game by rallying from an eight-run deficit Tuesday to roll past Newport Beach National, 26-16, at Woodfield Park in Aliso Viejo.

"Our kids were not at their best but showed real heart in coming back from an early eight-run deficit," Laguna Manager Taylor Pillsbury said.

Inconsistent pitching and errors by a usually reliable defense led to Laguna Beach facing a 12-4 deficit after two innings. Laguna bats came alive in the bottom of the third and the locals produced eight runs behind run-scoring doubles by James Laughlin, Aiden Kidd and Jett Rocha.

Newport Beach came back to take a one-run lead in the top of the fifth, although it was short-lived as Laguna responded with an 11-run outburst in the bottom of the inning to secure a mercy-rule win.

In the final inning, Blake Pivaroff hit his third home run of tournament and Charlie Pillsbury knocked in four runs on two doubles.

In its first three games, Laguna, the lone unbeaten team in the double-elimination tournament, has scored 58 runs.

Laguna stormed out of the gate in its tournament opener Saturday and routed Northwood, 22-10. The locals returned Sunday to post a 10-2 win over perennial tournament favorite Aliso Viejo. Both games were played at Woodfield Park.

In Saturday's win over Northwood, a prolific Laguna offense saw Pivaroff go four for five with a home run and pair of doubles, Kidd three for five with a triple, Charlie Pillsbury four for four, Lance Detwiler three for five with an inside-the-park home run, Jared Angus three for four and Trey Lockhart and Jackson Yelland both went two for two.

Angus — who started on the mound — and relief work by Rocha, Pivaroff and Pillsbury, held Northwood in check.

Pivaroff also was on target in Sunday's win over Aliso Viejo. He threw the first five innings and allowed four hits with seven strikeouts. He was backed by a defense that saw Rocha and Christian Holm make key plays at third base and in center field, respectively.

Pivaroff also had a big hand in the offensive output, going three for four that included a two-run home run in a five-run fifth inning. His blast followed a key three-run double by Rocha, who recorded his third hit of the game.

Pivaroff reached his maximum allotted 75 pitches in the top of the sixth and exited the game, but Kidd, a southpaw, forced three quick outs to wrap up the victory.

Taylor Pillsbury said he found the win over Aliso Viejo "particularly gratifying."

"To put things in perspective, the 10-year-old All-Star team I coached in 2003 lost to Aliso (Viejo), 24-1," he said. "When we questioned the opposing coaches about their kids stealing home with a 20-run lead, they replied that their players 'don't know how to hold back'.

"In 2009, the 11-year-old Laguna Beach All-Star team lost to Aliso Viejo, 28-3."

The championship game is at 4 p.m. Saturday at Woodfield Park. Laguna will face the winner of Friday's elimination game between Newport Beach National and Aliso Viejo in the final. A loss Saturday by Laguna would force a second and deciding game at noon Sunday.

The Laguna Beach 9-year-old All-Star tournament team is: Jared Angus, Dylan Brashier, Lance Detweiler, Christian Holm, Aidan Kidd, Trey Lockhart, James Loughlin, Charlie Pillsbury, Blake Pivaroff, Jett Rocha, Nolan Smith, Jackson Yelland and alternates Tanner Mauro, Caden Capobianco and Brooks Hogenauer.

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Four other Laguna Beach Little League All-Star teams — Little League (12-year-old), 10/11, 9/10 and Junior — begin District 55 All-Star Tournament play Saturday. Their rosters are:

Little League (12-year-old) All-Star Team

(opening game: vs. Lake Forest, 1 p.m. Saturday, Hicks Canyon Park, Irvine)

Manager: Steve Dixon

Players

William Bonn

Sean Conley

Dante Faicchio

Billy Howie

Nathan Hunt

Bruce Knill

Jordon Leppo

Brandon Marquez

Cole Paxon

Dexter Russo

Henry Schineller

Bayley Thomas

Alternates

Jack Dickinson

Luc Meier

Jack Dickerson

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10/11-year-old All-Star Team

(opening game: vs. Aliso Viejo, 9 a.m., Lincoln Elementary School, Corona del Mar)

Manager: Eric Wills

Players

Connor Brashier

Blake Burzell

James Langton

John Langton

Jack Loechner

Remy Mackel

William Ross

Dylan Smith

Lance Stewart

Judge Washer

Zack Washer

Jack Wills

Alternates

Thomas Garcia

Dean Nunis

Justin Holm

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9/10-year-old All Star Team

(opening game: vs. Lake Forest, 7 p.m. Saturday, Woodfield Park, Aliso Viejo)

Manager: Mike Morgan

Players

Sam Burgi

Nicolas Carpino

Kent Cebreros

Cole Fink

Cole Fredlow

Kolton Freeman

Hunter Johnson

Will Lichtenstein

Joshua McManus

Grady Morgan

Sam Reynolds

Connor Sorensen

Alternates

Jack Casey

Ethan Kupperman

Daniel Nash*

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Junior All-Star Team

(opening game: vs. Laguna Hills, 9 a.m. Saturday, La Paz Field, Laguna Niguel)

Manager: Beau Hutson

Players

Cole Calabrese

Ian Detweiler

Cole Hutson

Andrew Kimball

Kenji Lee

Will McInerny

Elias Medici

Danny Pietig

John Ogden

Mason Pitz

Jake Smith

Jeffery Rosenthal

Brett Tracy

Alternates

Davis Price

Jordan Watkins

Danny Peterson

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