With Pacifica American becoming the second straight Peninsula team to make the Little League West Region championship game, it appears the quality of youth baseball around San Mateo County is on the upswing.
The group of 11- and 12-year-old players from Pacifica followed up an impressive semifinal victory by losing out on a trip to Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series. Pacifica lost to Mountain Ridge of Las Vegas 11-2 Saturday.
“A lot of cities are involved in travel ball now during the summer so the kids are putting more into baseball up and down the Peninsula leading to a better brand of baseball,” Pacifica manager Steve Falk said Sunday after the team returned from San Bernardino. “The amount of reps is really important for these kids.”
The championship game Saturday night got off to a rough start for Pacifica as it allowed nine runs in the top of the first inning to Mountain Ridge, including a three-run home run by Austin Kryszcuk, his fifth of the tournament.
Fourth-seeded Pacifica answered with two runs in the bottom of the first, but it simply wasn't enough. The win by second-seeded Mountain Ridge made it the first Nevada team to make it to the Little League World Series, which begins Thursday.
Last year, Belmont-Redwood Shores lost to Eastlake in the West Region title game 9-0.
The kids of Pacifica American held their heads high after the loss because they know just how much they had accomplished.
“They gave it their all and I couldn't be more happy for the kids and the community,” Falk said. “To be one win away from what every Little Leaguer dreams of doing is impressive especially when you take into account how small of a community and league we play in.”
The highlight for Pacifica was undoubtably the 1-0 victory over top-seeded Hawaii in Friday's semifinals. Coming into the game, Hawaii was averaging 10 runs a game during the tournament.
Apparently, this did not phase Pacifica starting pitcher Elijah Ricks as he threw a two-hit shutout.
“A lot of the people that work down there said it was the best game they've ever seen and many of them have been around for over 20 years,” Falk said.
The lone run of the game came in the second inning. After Chris Rodriguez and Andrew Harkness walked, a groundball squeaked by the glove of Hawaii first baseman Shane McCarthy and into right field, allowing Rodriguez to come around from second base. Ricks was in control all night, striking out eight as Pacifica knocked Hawaii out of the tournament.
“Being the head coach in that game was stressful,” Falk said with a laugh. “You sit back and look at it, it really was an impressive game considering what these 12-year-olds did in a game they were basically given no shot to win.”