The Pacific Little League all-stars found out that dreams can come true Saturday afternoon in San Bernardino, Calif.
Representing Washington state in the Little League Northwest Regionals, Pacific defeated Oregon 6-3 in the championship game to earn a berth in next week’s Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn.
“It’s a bit surreal,” said Pacific manager Robley Corsi II. “It does not feel real yet.”
The players were feeling the same way after Saturday’s victory at Houghton Stadium.
“I don’t think they realize what they’ve done,” Corsi II said. “They’re having as much fun as anything.”
Pacific finished the tournament 6-0 and beat Oregon for the second time. Pacific downed Oregon 10-2 to open the tournament and then recorded victories over Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana again in the semifinals.
“Our kids really jelled as a team,” Corsi II said. “They were dancing. They were having fun.
“It was a hard fought game. It was a team win. All the players contributed. Everybody contributed in that game.”
No one did more for Pacific than starting pitcher Ian Michael, who struck out nine in a complete-game performance. Michael was given a 2-0 lead after the top of the first inning, but Oregon roughed him up for three runs. Michael regrouped and shut down Oregon for the rest of the game.
“It was amazing,” Corsi II said of Michael’s effort. “The first inning he was nervous … but he kept his composure.”
Later on, Corsi II noted that Michael “absolutely hit his spots.”
In the bottom of the sixth, Oregon had one player on base when Michael walked the batter on four straight balls to bring the tying run to the plate. Corsi II went to the mound to talk to Michael and asked if he wanted out. Michael firmly stated he wanted to finish the game.
And Michael did with a flourish, striking out the final two batters to end the threat and send his teammates into a wild celebration on the field.
“I could see it in his eyes. He wanted to finish out that game,” Corsi II said. “That’s a big game and he threw the ball extremely well.”
Pacific will play Great Lakes at noon, Thursday, Aug. 14 in a first-round Little League World Series game at Lamade Stadium in Williamsport, Penn. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.
In the first inning, Pacific’s Colton Walsh struck out, but the ball got away from the catcher and he beat the wild throw to first base and scampered to second. Walsh advanced to third base on a ground out and then scored when Tyler Durbin doubled to right field. Logan Kruse followed with a single to left field that advanced Durbin to third base. Karsen Tjarneberg hit a hard grounder to shortstop that scored Durbin and Pacific led 2-0.
The lead didn’t last long as Oregon responded with three runs in the bottom of the first inning on three straight singles, a sacrifice fly and a passed ball.
Ben Grant was hit by a pitch to lead off the third inning. Durbin followed with a single to right field, enabling Grant to move to third base. Durbin moved up a base on a passed ball. Tygan Duncan then hit a hard grounder that got through the second baseman to score Grant and Durbin. Duncan advanced to second a throwing error and then moved to third on Michael’s fly ball to right field. Tjarneberg then followed with an RBI single to score Duncan to give Pacific a 5-3 lead.
Pacific tacked on another run in the fourth when Corsi III led off with a double. Walsh grounded out to third but Corsi III advanced to third on the throw to first base. Corsi III then scored on a sacrifice fly by Mason Vaughn.
“We made the plays that we needed to make and we were able to pitch out of some big jams,” Corsi II said.
Duncan was 1-for-1 with 2 RBI and Tjarneberg was 1-for-3 with 2 RBI. Durbin was 3-for-3 with an RBI and two runs.
In talking to people who have been to the Little League World Series, Corsi II said they’ve told him “it’s going to be even more fun.”
Corsi II was named the Coach of the Northwest Regional tournament. Corsi and the players had all of Saturday to celebrate the victory but were scheduled to fly out of San Bernardino to Williamsport early Sunday morning.
While he and his coaching staff have guided Pacific through tough District, State and Regional tournaments, Corsi II has learned a thing or two from being around his players.
“Never give up. Play as a team,” he said. “Play as a unit and anything can happen.
“Williamsport, that’s where we wanted to go. That’s what we came here for.”
– By David Pan