Source: South Williamsport, Pa.
Date/Time: Saturday, August 27, 2011, 4:00pm ET
The Huntington Beach Boys ditched their surf boards for their baseball bats this summer, changing their tune from “surfin’ safari” to “hittin’ safari”.
The offensive prowess of the Ocean View All-Stars has been on display from foul pole to foul pole, clubbing home runs over the wall, roping doubles to the gap, and lacing singles up the middle.
They outscored their opponents at the West regionals, 41-6, en route to South Williamsport. It’s been no different here at the Little League Baseball World Series, outscoring the opposition, 23-1, heading into Saturday’s United States Championship.
The parlay continued against the Northwest champs from Billings, Mont., clinching the U.S. title with an 11-2 win before 20,168 fans at Howard J. Lamade Stadium. Huntington Beach will take on Japan in the World Series title game Sunday at noon.
The West region has produced each of the last four U.S. champions. Waipahu, Hawaii took the U.S. title in 2008 and 2010, while Chula Vista, Calif., won the U.S. crown in 2009. Both Chula Vista and the 2008 Waipahu squad won the World Series championship.
“We just kept playing our own game, and we got it,” said starting pitcher Nick Pratto, who struck out 10 and allowed only one unearned run in 5.1 innings for the victory. “I knew that our lineup was going to hit, and I just had all the confidence in the world that we could stay in this game if I could pitch well.”
Pratto not only pitched well, he helped himself out at the plate, going 2-for-4 with three RBI, including a two-run double in the fourth that made it 5-1. The lefty had three RBI in his first four games of the tournament.
Pratto was one of four Ocean View All-Stars with multi-hit efforts. Hagen Danner had a game-high three hits, and he is hitting a tournament-best .556 (10-for-18).
Dylan Palmer collected a pair of hits out of the No. 8 spot in the order. He blasted a two-run homer in the second that made it 3-0, driving a 1-0 offering from Patrick Zimmer over the fence in right-center field. It was his first home run in all-star competition.
“To hit it at the Little League World Series is just crazy,” said the third baseman, who is referred to by teammates as “Dill Pickle.” “I knew it was in the gap and it carried and just went.”
“When I was younger, I was like, ‘Wow, I wonder what it’s like to be there,’” he said. “And now I can’t believe we’re here.”
Montana cut its deficit to 3-1 in the bottom of the second, when Andy Maehl singled and later scored after a pair of throwing errors on a pick-off attempt. Catcher Danner tried to get Maehl leading off first, but his throw went into right field. Steven Kotkosky’s throw from right went all the way into the left field corner, allowing Maehl to come around to score.
That’s as close as they would come, however, as Huntington Beach pulled away with two runs in the fourth, two in the fifth and four in the sixth.
“Winning our country was Priority No. 1 for us,” said Huntington Beach manager Jeff Pratto. “I’m pretty proud of these boys and the hard work they’ve put in.”
Nick Pratto gave himself a 1-0 lead with a run-scoring groundout before he even set foot on the mound. The grounder scored Danner, who led off the game with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch.
After Pratto’s two-run double in the fourth, Braydon Salzman made it 6-1 in the fifth with an RBI single, and he later scored on a wild pitch to push the score to 7-1.
Palmer added an RBI single in the sixth to extend the lead to 10-1, and Christian Catano closed out Ocean View’s 11-run outburst with a sacrifice fly.
“It was nice to get one run in the first inning, and that just set the tone as opposed to the other night,” manager Pratto said, referring to his squad’s 1-0 loss to Montana earlier in the week.
The dream run for the Billings Big Sky Little League All-Stars as Montana’s first World Series participant has ended.
“They don’t have anything to hang their heads about,” said manager Gene Carlson. “They had a great run, and they all played exceptionally well and they got beat by a good team. They have nothing to be ashamed of. I’m proud to be their coach.”
Manager Pratto indicated Salzman would start on the mound against Japan on Sunday. Huntington Beach will be the home team despite losing the coin toss.