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Encinitas Little League advances to semifinals

Encinitas Little League players pose for a group shot. The team made it to the West Region Tournament semifinals, which will be televised Aug. 8 at 2 p.m. on ESPN2.
Encinitas Little League players pose for a group shot. The team made it to the West Region Tournament semifinals, which will be televised Aug. 8 at 2 p.m. on ESPN2.
( / Jared Whitlock)

The Encinitas Little League (ELL) All-Star team secured a spot in the San Bernardino West Region Tournament semifinals, moving even closer to the Little League World Series.

ELL finished tournament pool play 2-2. Despite losing to Honolulu Little League by seven runs in its first game on Aug. 2, the team bounced back and won both games of an Aug. 4 double header.

“Our first game against Hawaii, there were obviously some nerves in the clubhouse,” said pitching coach Brian Mazone on Aug. 6. “We were tentative at the plate; we made some defensive errors.

“At this big of a stage, it takes some getting used to…We knew it would be a battle heading into the double-header. The team just relaxed. Playing in that stadium in front of the crowd, playing in that heat — it takes time to get comfortable.”

Although ELL fell to the Nevada All-Star team 8-4 on Aug. 6, by emerging victorious from both games of the double-header, the team assured itself a spot in the semifinals.

“It’s a credit to them,” Mazone said. “They just continually battle and bounce back — their character is incredible.”

ELL will play in the semifinals at 2 p.m. on Aug. 8. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

If ELL wins, the team will compete in the tournament championship Aug. 9. The victor then goes on to the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Penn., which features eight U.S. teams and eight international teams.

This is the first time ELL, a league founded in 1954, has made it to the West Region Tournament.

Mazone said he’s very grateful to all those who drove to San Bernardino over the last few days to cheer ELL.

“I saw a sea of red in the stands every game,” said Mazone, who pitched in Triple-A for a number of years until 2010.

Last week, before leaving for San Bernardino, a crowd, including former Padre Trevor Hoffman, gathered at the Magdalena Ecke Family YMCA to wish ELL luck.

“San Diego is behind you guys,” Hoffman said at the sendoff.


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