By Rob Tota
Coeur D’Alene Little League’s run at the first world title for the state of Idaho ended on Saturday, falling to Georgia’s Peachtree City American Little League, 3-0.
The league’s time in Williamsport came to an end on a high note though, as the Little Leaguers representing the Northwest Region (1-2) defeated Spain’s Catalunya Little League (0-3), 5-0, Thursday afternoon in a consolation match-up. Idaho Manager Sean Cherry was confident that his team would play up to expectations, with the hopes of returning home with a World Series win to its credit.
“We’re all competitive as players and coaches,” he said. “We want to put at least one win in the column, so we’re going to go out there and play our best game.”
One of the storylines surrounding the team has been their “two Coopers,” with players Cooper Erickson and Cooper Smith each contributing to the team’s preparation for Williamsport in their own way.
Cooper Smith made the trip to the LLWBS last year as a spectator, which through his experience made the goal of reaching Williamsport seem a little more realistic to his teammates.
“It wasn’t so mysterious,” said Cherry on what Smith’s experience brought to the players. “The teams that he watched, he didn’t think they were that much better than we were.”
The team’s other Cooper, Cooper Erickson, was elected team captain by his teammates. Erickson has contributed to the team all over the field, appearing in both the infield and outfield and also on the mound.
Yet it’s his contributions in the dugout that Coach Cherry is most proud of.
“One of the things we strive for as a coaching staff is to utilize baseball as a tool to develop young men,” he said. “I put a lot on him (Erickson) to help develop that leadership, and he’s really risen to the occasion; he’s a shining star on this team.”
Regardless of what took place on Thursday, Idaho has plenty to be proud of moving forward. They were a dominant force in the Northwest Region Tournament, averaging nearly nine runs per game over those five games.
On top of that, the Northwest Region crown gave the state of Idaho it’s first representative in the Little League Baseball World Series since 1999.
“We wanted to come out here and show that little old Coeur D’Alene could hang with the big dogs,” Cherry said., “We held two very good teams to two very low scores…I think we’ve shown really well here.”
Known for their “Two-run rally” chants, the Idaho crowd was one of the more enthusiastic among American teams, something Cherry thinks will translate to their welcome home.
“The games put aside, they cheer the good effort and competitiveness,” he said, “We conducted ourselves well, and I think the town is really going to embrace us.”