The 2013 Little League season certainly was one to remember for Laguna Beach.
Following an unparalleled, two division championships performance last month for Laguna Beach at the District 55 Tournament of Champions, two of the league's All-Star teams, the 11-year-old and 9/10 teams, played to the final weekend of the district's All-Star tournament.
Both teams came up just shy of winning district titles with the 9/10 team playing for a division championship on Sunday. The 11-year-old All-Stars lost a semifinal game to eventual division champion Aliso Viejo also on Sunday.
Laguna's 8/9 Superstars team was eliminated from title contention in its division on July 3.
Aliso View won five of the six district All-Star division titles, winning championships in the 8/9, 9/10, 10/11, 11/12 and Junior divisions. Newport Beach won the Intermediate division championship.
Laguna's memorable tournament run ended in a championship game appearance Sunday. The All-Stars fell in their attempt to win the crown, 4-1, to Aliso Viejo, at Crown Valley Field in Laguna Niguel.
Manager Coby Naess said Aliso Viejo's pitchers "were excellent, the best pitchers we faced in the tournament."
Jamie Mackay pitched a complete game for Laguna and was backed a solid defense. Naess said Scotty Plowden and Booker Frith "were excellent" at third base and shortstop, respectively.
Aliso Viejo scored three runs in the first two innings, and took a 4-0 advantage into the top of the sixth. In its final at-bat, Laguna staged a rally by using a pair of hits and a walk to load the bases. Frith, on third base, got a big jump on a passed ball, and scored on a close play at the plate.
One batter later, George Williams was hit by a pitch which again loaded the bases with one out. The next two Laguna batters were retired, which ended the threat and game.
"Us coaches could not be any more proud of the kids and what they accomplished during this tournament," Naess said. "We heard this was the first time any All-Star team from Laguna Beach has made it to the championship game, so this was a historic run.
"The kids all worked extremely hard and came together in three short weeks. The team centered on pitching, defense and aggressive base running. They excelled in all three of those. The bats came alive as we kept winning. Hitting is contagious. It was just really cool to be part of a great group of kids and families and do this thing together. Great experience for all."
Laguna won its two previous games to advance to Sunday's championship series.
In an elimination game played July 3, Laguna downed Irvine, 7-3. Mackay started on the mound and threw four innings with Frith in relief for the final two innings. Plowden, Luke Lavin (two-RBI single), Frith and Nolan Naess (three for three, two doubles, triple) led the way on offense.
Gavin Trevino and Cooper Noriega also added to Laguna's hit count.
"We faced three very good pitchers from Irvine," Coby Naess said. "The first few pitchers shut us down with some speedy pitches and a herky jerky delivery. Once we dialed in on the speed, our kids adjusted and had some great at-bats. We pitched solid and played very strong defense."
The Irvine win sent Laguna onto another elimination game, this one, against Newport Harbor on Saturday. Laguna again stayed alive in the tournament by handing Newport Beach a 14-3 defeat.
Naess called it a "great win" which atoned a 1-0 defeat Laguna had suffered to Newport Beach earlier in the tournament.
"Hot bats, Scotty [Plowden] pitching, flawless defense," is how Naess described the win.
In a game where Naess said every Laguna player contributed, it was Williams who started things with a single up the middle to drive in two runs in the first inning. Frith had a base-clearing, three-RBI triple. Nolan Naess continued his hot hitting with a pair of singles, and Plowden had a multi-hit game including a hit off the fence in left field.
Plowden, who had sturdy support in catcher Jack Payne and Luke Lavin, pitched five innings and got the win. Frith again worked relief and finished the game.
"Our trademark this tournament run was incredible defense and solid pitching," Coby Naess said. "We had multiple games with zero errors. It was fun to see the kids step up and make the plays and support their pitchers. We had one miscue in the early part of our game on Saturday [against Newport Beach]. It lead to two runs. The kids all picked each other up, said let's tighten up our defense, and that they did."
Naess said Laguna played its final three games without players Paxton Burzell (P/1B), Ryan Magers (2B/P), and Ryan Anthony (OF).
"The kids stepped up in their absence," he said.
9/10 All Stars: Paxton Burzell, Caden Capobianco, Connor Fink, Booker Frith, Luke Lavin, Ryan Magers, Jamie Mackay, Nolan Naess, Cooper Noriega, Jack Payne, Scotty Plowden, George Williams, Ryan Anthony, Gavin Trevino, Aidan McDennon. Manager: Coby Naess. Coaches: Dave Frith, Dana Mackay.