Aug. 29—For West Side Little League, the accomplishment of reaching the Little League World Series championship game and becoming the first Ohio team to do so had not sunk in at the postgame press conference Saturday.
» PHOTOS: West Side vs. Sioux Falls
"I'm sure once we get done with this whole great journey we've been on," coach Ken Coomer said, "on the way home, after the celebrations when we get home, it's going to mean a lot more being in our hometown. Not being with our hometown, with only 250 tickets for people who want to come up, it's kind of hard. Some of those people can't come up who want to come up. This is for our city and our state and everything. It means a lot."
West Side, a Hamilton team of 12-year-old all-stars, beat Sioux Falls, S.D., 5-2 on Saturday in the final of the Tom Seaver Bracket and will play Taylor North Little League (Mich.), at 3 p.m. Sunday at Lamade Stadium. It's a matchup of the Great Lakes Region finalists. West Side lost 9-1 to Taylor North on Aug. 14 in Whitestown, Ind.
The top two teams in each region qualified for the Little League World Series, so both West Side and Taylor North knew they would get the chance to play in Williamsport, Pa., when they met in the regional final.
"I think the Michigan game," Coomer said, "it came off a big win against Illinois and knowing we qualified, unfortunately in that game, we were a little too relaxed and just didn't have the focus like we wanted to. Same as the California game (a 9-0 loss on Aug. 22 in Williamsport), we had the focus. They just beat us. They were better that day. But I think it definitely motivated us to play them again. If we get the opportunity against Michigan, that's going to be our motivation against Michigan. Plus, it's Ohio-Michigan, right?"
No Ohio team has ever won the championship. Michigan won the championship in 1959. Hamtramck beat West Auburn, Calif., 12-0 in the final.
To reach the championship game, Taylor North beat Martin County North, Fla., 8-0 and Wylie, Tex., 6-5 before losing 2-0 to Honolulu, Hi. It stayed alive by beating Wylie for a second time, 15-6, and then avenged its loss to Honolulu with a 2-1 victory Saturday in the final of the Hank Aaron Bracket.
West Side also avenged its only loss to reach the championship game. Here's a look back at the six games West Side has played in the tournament.
Game 1 (Aug. 20): West Side 1, Nolensville, Tenn., 0 (eight innings)
West Side pitchers J.J. Vogel and Cooper Oden combined to limit Nolensville to two hits
In the eighth inning, both teams started with a runner at second. In the top of the inning, Nolensville advanced its runner to third with one out. Oden then got two groundouts to strand the runner at third.
In the bottom of the eighth, Chase Moak started the inning on second and moved to third on a one-out infield single by Brady Baumann. Nolensville intentionally walked Levi Smith to load the bases.
Then a hard-hit groundball by Noah Davidson got under the first baseman's glove — it was ruled an error — and rolled into right field. Moak scored from third base as West Side celebrated.
Game 2 (Aug. 22): Torrance, Calif., 9, West Side 0
After a lead-off double by Kaleb Harden in the bottom of the first inning, West Side did not collect another hit against Torrance starter Xavier Navarro, who pitched 4 2/3 innings.
Isaac Mora and Brandon Perez combined to keep West Side hitless in the final 1 1/3 innings. The Torrance pitchers combined for two strikeouts and two walks.
Game 3 (Aug. 23): West Side 4, Lafayette, La. 2
West Side led 3-2 through three innings but broke the game open with a five-run fourth inning. Vogel hit a three-run home run in the inning.
Vogel went 2-for-3 with four RBIs. Moak went 2-for-3 and drove in a run. Cooper Clay and Chance Retherford also drove in runs. Levi Smith and Retherford each scored two runs.
Noah Davidson started on the mound and allowed two earned runs in three innings. He struck out six.
Harden followed with three scoreless innings, striking out three batters.
Game 4 (Aug. 25): West Side 4, North Manchester-Hooksett, N.H., 3
West Side built a 4-0 lead with two runs in the third and two runs in the sixth.
Retherford and Vogel drove in the first two runs. Krew Brown and Harden drove in the next two. Harden, Retherford and Brown each had two hits.
Vogel once again dominated on the mound for West Side. He struck out 11 in five innings and didn't give up a hit until a leadoff double in the sixth. He walked the next batter and then was replaced by Harden.
West Side took a 4-0 lead into the final inning. Harden, who threw three scoreless innings in relief Monday, entered the game in the sixth with two runners on base and no outs and gave up a three-run home run to the first batter he faced. Then he battled back to close the game, recording the final out with a strikeout and stranding the tying run on first base.
Game 5 (Aug. 26): West Side 4, Torrance, Calif., 2
Torrance took a 2-0 lead on back-to-back, two-out singles in the third. In the fourth, Retherford scored on a wild pitch to get West Side on the board.
Then in the fifth, a triple down the right-field line by Retherford scored Baumann and Vogel to give West Side a 3-2 lead. A single by Davidson scored Retherford to provide an insurance run in the same inning.
On the mound, two pitchers combined to limit Torrance to seven hits. Retherford started and pitched two innings, allowing one earned run on one hit and striking out four. Davidson followed with four innings. He allowed one run on six hits and struck out six.
Game 6 (Aug. 28): West Side 5, Sioux Falls 2
In the second inning, Maddox Jones started a four-run rally with a single. Jones was forced out at second base on a groundout by Clay. After Gage Maggard walked with one out, Oden singled, and Clay scored from second when the right fielder failed to come up with the ball cleanly. That was the first run Sioux Falls allowed in the tournament.
The next batter, Brown, reached on a bunt single, loading the bases with one out. Smith then singled to right. The ball rolled under the right fielder's glove, and Maggard, Owen and Brown all scored, giving West Side a 4-0 lead.