Game 24: Southwest 6 vs. West 3

Remember the ‘W’

Author: Zach Swartz - Special Correspondent

Source: South Williamsport, Pa.

Date/Time: Tuesday, August 25, 2009, 8:00pm ET

In the nightcap of the two games that had bearing on future rounds Tuesday night, both teams, quite literally, were aiming for the “W.”

It was a dogfight for the No. 1 seed in Pool B as the two undefeated teams, Chula Vista, Calif. and San Antonio, Texas squared off at Howard J. Lamade Stadium.

By the end of the scrapping, San Antonio had handed Chula Vista its first loss in its last 11 games, a 6-3 victory guided by power and pitching that slotted the Southwest Region Champions in the No. 1 spot in Pool B.

Slugging Chula Vista left fielder Kiko Garcia, who had blasted 12 home runs in the West Region Tournament, swatted his second of the Little League World Series in the first. It was a two-run moonshot that landed just past and to the right of the “W” on the “LITTLE LEAGUE WORLD SERIES” banner spanning the centerfield hill.

Asked if he was nervous after the Garcia home run—Chula Vista had hit 10 home runs in its first two games— San Antonio manager Mike Shull shook his head.

“Not at all,” he said. “Since we were already advancing, we were going to have a little bit of fun.”

The 2-0 lead would hold until the third inning, when San Antonio’s Drew Brooks laced a two-run triple down the right field line to even the score. The next batter, third baseman Travis Daves, followed with his best Garcia impression, slamming a no-doubter to almost the same spot as Garcia’s in the first.

“I felt pretty good, but more confidence in myself really,” Brooks said. “I wasn’t really feeling in a good mood today. I was just really tired, so I think (the triple) got me a little awake.”

An RBI single by Chula Vista leadoff hitter Andy Rios brought his team to within one in the fifth at 4-3.

But with two down in the top of the sixth, Kyle Pollard, who had entered as a pinch-hitter in the fourth, reached on a single to bring No. 9 hitter Wyatt Willis to the plate. The 5-foot-3-inch, 95-pound centerfielder, not to be outdone by the sluggers who had homered before him, launched a long ball of his own to center. Although this one didn’t make it to the “W,” it proved to be enough to earn his team a “W” of its own.

“I just went up there with confidence, and I felt like I wanted to get a base hit and thought I was going to hit the ball hard somewhere,” Willis said.

San Antonio’s 6-3 victory was punctuated with a two-strikeout, 1-2-3 inning by Nick Pollard, who was pitching for the first time since the sectional tournament.
The West Region Champs’ three runs and seven hits were their fewest by far in the tournament. In their previous two games, they had outscored opponents 29-0 and outhit them 32-7.

“I think it was good for them in the sense that maybe they’re going to be brought down to reality and figure out that it’s going to be tough no matter who we play and that we have to get to work,” Chula Vista manager Oscar Castro said.

As for Chula Vista, that “W” might as well stand for “whiffle ball.” After an 18-0 loss in the state tournament—the last time an opponent had out-homered the West Region Champs—they played a whiffle ball game with their parents. They won their next two real games.

Castro said his team plans to hit some whiffle balls on Wednesday.

The West Champs will move on to face No. 1 seed in Pool A, Warner Robins, Ga., Wednesday at 8 p.m. San Antonio takes on Pool B’s No. 2 seed of Staten Island, N.Y., Thursday at 8 p.m.

Decided by a coin flip after the contest was finished, both Chula Vista and San Antonio will be the home team in their respective games.