La Verne Juggernaut Now in Finals of Little League Tournament

July 27, 2010
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Just one of the combinations and winning formulas, La Verne uses to win games. Front, from left, Nick Johnson and Nate Schneider. Back, from left, Anthony Cascarano and and AJ Woodall.

Just one of the combinations and winning formulas, La Verne uses to win games. Front, from left, Nick Johnson and Nate Schneider. Back, from left, Anthony Cascarano and and AJ Woodall.

The La Verne 11-year-old all stars used their successful jump-on-‘em- early, pounce-on-‘em-late formula to throttle Orange, 6-2 last night, and earn a berth in the finals of the Sub-Division III Little League championship at Homer F. Briggs Memorial Park in Ontario. They’re off today while they await the winner of the Orange-Goleta Valley game tonight.

As he had the night before, Nick Peifer got the attack going with a lead-off single in the top of the first. Then La Verne got some help as Orange committed two fielding errors and a throwing error, and just like that — before even the first 50-50 bucket could be passed around the stands — La Verne had staked itself to a 3-0 lead.

Asking Orange to overcome a 3-0 deficit with La Verne ace AJ Woodall on the mound was tantamount to telling a novice hiker to scale Mt. Everest with a pair of hiking shorts and a knapsack.

Woodall struck out the first two hitters on six pitches. Then he walked the next three batters before striking out Michael Long to end the inning. Woodall was just finding his groove.

Over the next four innings, Orange prevented La Verne from scoring, its pitching staff only surrendering a single to Schneider in the third and a bunt single to Luke Grapentin in the fifth.

But Woodall was even better, giving up just a lead-off single to Long in the bottom of the fourth. In that same fourth, Woodall had to work out of his jam, however. With a runner on first, he slipped fielding an infield dribbler and threw wildly to first to put runners on the corners. Still trailing 3-0, Orange was looking to break through and perhaps rally for a big inning.

Instead, Woodall rang up his seventh strikeout and then on an almost identical play to the one he had just thrown away, Woodall bounced off the man to grab a roller up the third base line, whirled and fired probably his fastest strike of the night to a perfectly positioned Anthony Cascarano at first to just nip Orange’s Riley Fink for the final out of the inning.

La Verne would rely on its defense again in the fifth. With a runner on first, Woodall had to exit the game after throwing 87 pitches. Orange turned up the heat on reliever Nick Peifer by putting the next two hitters aboard on an error and a walk to load the bases. The Orange faithful was coming out of its collective seats. It appeared their team’s moment had come

But so had Peifer’s. He got Long to hit into a force-out, which scored Orange’s Connor Case, and then in the defensive gem of the night, La Verne second baseman Nick Johnson ranged to his right to backhand a sharply hit grounder headed into centerfield and flipped to shortstop Cascarano at second for the inning-ending, rally-killing force play.

Leading 3-1 in the top of the sixth, La Verne was now looking for more of a cushion, and it got it by the narrowest of margins. With one out, Andrew Berdugo singled. Peifer then grounded to the second baseman, who tagged out Berdugo and then threw off balance to the first baseman who couldn’t quite corral the high throw. Then in the post-season style to which La Verne has grown accustomed, Schneider lined a two-run homer and Cascarano followed with a solo shot to suddenly make the score, 6-1.

By that time, Orange wanted no part of Woodall, walking him. Graydon Smith followed with single before defensive star Johnson fanned to end the inning.

Orange didn’t go quietly in the bottom of the sixth, however. They’re too good a team for that. Brandon Ducheny doubled to lead off the inning and eventually came around to score on a ground-out by Fink. But then Peifer let the defense take over as Cascarano threw out the last two batters on routine grounders to short.

“I couldn’t be more proud of you guys,” said interim manager John Grapentin. “When we needed the big hits, you delivered and you played the game with class.”

Class is back in session on Wednesday at 6 p.m. It should be a corker, especially if Orange gets another shot at La Verne, where orange ranches once lined the landscape.

It takes a team to capture the dream.

It takes a team to capture the dream.

2 Responses to “La Verne Juggernaut Now in Finals of Little League Tournament”

  1. I think there needs to be a mention somewhere that LaVerne’s manager was suspended for TWO games for intentionally not playing two of his players the other night. LL all-star rules stipulate that every player has to play at least one inning (one at-bat and three defensive outs). If that’s what really makes the LaVerne 10-11 all-stars “juggernauts” then I feel sorry for them. That’s bush league baseball in my book.

  2. For the record, the La Verne manager was suspended for two games but it was not for “intentionally not playing two of his players.” The player in questioned played 6 defensive outs (two consecutive innings), he was the lead-off hitter coming up in the bottom of the 6th inning that was not played due to La Verne being the home team and leading after 5 1/2. The fact is that there was only one player in question and yes, he did not bat prior to the game offically ending (therefore the suspension). Everyone has a right to voice their concern/opinion but it should be done with the foresight of providing correct informaiton and not editorializing on false information.

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