Chasing a two-run deficit in the waning innings of the District 2 championship game, the Litchfield Park Little League’s under-12 All-Stars team used an extra-innings rally and a strong effort from its bullpen to escape with a thrilling one-run victory against Deer Valley Little League on June 28.
The win propelled Litchfield Park to the state tournament in Kingman beginning July 15.
“That was probably one of the best little league games that I have ever been a part of,” head coach Cory Acton said. “And I’ve been a part of a few.”
Litchfield Park had been trailing by a pair of runs for a majority of the game, until it pushed across the tying run in the later innings. In the top of the seventh, LPLL scored the go-ahead run, and promptly struck out the side in Deer Valley’s final at-bats.
“We had the lead for one half inning of the entire game, and that was the championship,” Acton chuckled.
Acton’s squad, a roster of 13 comprised of the best 11- and 12-year-olds in the LPLL, will travel to Kingman in mid-July for a showdown against “a dozen or more teams” spanning the state. Litchfield Park will begin tournament play Monday, July 15, against a Scottsdale team.
It’s a double-elimination tournament — and one that could stretch into the following week, needing to win a minimum of four games in order to advance.
If Litchfield Park leaves Kingman with another first-place trophy, the team will advance to a Super-Regionals round in San Bernardino, California. The final destination, should Litchfield Park reach, resides in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where the famed Little League World Series is held each summer.
In Kingman, Acton believes he has the personnel to contend for a state title. Roughly half of the roster plays together on Acton’s club baseball team throughout the year.
“I’m counting on our pitching to keep us in ballgames,” he said. “We’ve got a couple kids who can knock the ball around, some savvy base runners. We manufacture runs. We’re not a home run-hitting team — we have a few guys who can knock it over, but we’re more of a manufacturing and small-ball type of team.”
The joyous spirit of Little League baseball is simply contagious. As fun as this run has been for the players, Acton and his coaching staff are having the time of their lives, too.
“Watching your kid, as well as the other kids who you’re around a lot, and seeing them have success — at the end of the day, Little League really is all about having fun,” Acton said.
“The reward is seeing them have a good time, regardless of the outcome.”