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July 26, 2011 > Season ends at sectionals

Season ends at sectionals

By Gary van den Heuvel

For hundreds of teams and thousands of players around the baseball-playing world, the Little League World Series is the pinnacle, the big-time. Reaching the Series is an Everest-like climb through the ranks of baseball teams which just keep getting better and better, until the final teams standing can lay claim to being the best two Little League teams in the world. It's not a minor achievement.

Unfortunately, the last of the local survivors at the Majors level will have to wait till next year, as both Niles-Centerville Little League (NCLL) and Mount Eden Little League saw their seasons come to an end at the Section 3 championships, held at Osage Park in Danville.

In the first round game (July 16), Niles-Centerville continued their winning streak (they'd cruised through the Division 14 tournament undefeated) with a taut 5-4 win over Mt. Eden, who was representing District 45. Trailing 1-0 in the top of the third inning, Mt. Eden took the lead on a Matthew Sanchez triple, an RBI single by Miguel Delfin, daring steals of second and third base by Delfin, and a wild pitch to bring the run home.

NCLL tied the game with a run in the bottom of the third, but Mt. Eden retook the lead in the fifth on a Delfin single and steal of second, a Joel Figueroa sacrifice, and a safety squeeze by Ezekiel Delgado which scored Delfin.

Niles came to life in the bottom of the frame. Sam Braun, who had doubled, scored on a ground out RBI by Jerry Cardona; with two gone, Eric Bernard singled, Matthew Leon doubled in the go-ahead run, and he scored the eventual game-winner on an infield error.

Mt. Eden didn't go down quietly, but their rally was held to one run in the bottom of the sixth for a 5-4 NCLL win. Mt. Eden stayed alive the next day with a 3-0 shutout over District 45, but were eliminated 7-2 by District 52, Hillsborough Little League.

Niles-Centerville's stay in the winners bracket came to an abrupt and brutal end in a 15-1 four-inning rout at the hands of Tassajero Valley LL (District 57). All NCLL could manage was a Leon single to score Adam Brown in the third inning, which cut Tassajero's lead to 4-1. The floodgates opened in the top of the fourth, starting with a grand slam by Tyler Van Hole. The overmatched Niles squad couldn't stop the bleeding, and hemorrhaged seven more runs before getting out of the inning. With only one more inning left to avoid the ten-run rule, Niles went down in order, experiencing not only their first defeat, but also the cold harsh slap of reality.

Perhaps stunned by the totality of the loss, Niles hung tough for three innings in their elimination game against District 52's Hillsborough Little League (July 19). But Hillsborough broke a 2-2 tie wide open with seven fourth-inning runs, followed by two in the fifth to coast to an 11-3 win.

In the tournament final, Tassajero Valley continued to pound the baseball, emerging as the Section 3 champs with a 14-3 win over Hillsborough.

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