RANCHO SANTA FE — The Rancho Santa Fe Little League All Star team made some special history this season when they won the District 31 tournament, a first for the league. With that prize in hand, the extraordinary group of boys continued to march resolutely toward a state championship.
They then went on to win the championship game against La Mesa National 4-3 in extra innings. The team did well in the tournament and was 3-0, heading next to San Bernadino to play in the Sub-Division III South 9-10 year old tournament through July 28.
Little League District 31 is composed of 14 Leagues including Solana Beach, Del Mar, Poway and Encinitas. In the 9- and 10-year-old division, the RSF All Stars advanced out-of-pool play with a 2-1 record. They then proceeded to win three straight games, all by one run, to take the championship. District Administrator Larry Burch, a 30-year volunteer, confirmed that it is the first time a Rancho Santa Fe team has won the title.
The Rancho boys faced a very powerful team from Rancho San Diego in the opener and lost 15-5 but the team won July 26 in a nail-biter, 19-18. They played again July 27 and July 28. On July 28, they were still in contention, beating Vineyard Little League 7-5 to stay alive in the tournament. They were set to play Rancho San Diego that night in San Bernardino, but they were eliminated by Rancho San Diego.
“We have a difficult task ahead of us, as we do not have many of our usual pitchers available for the game,” Kirk McCaskill said before the team was eliminated.
Section winners one through five are playing in Long Beach, while Section winners six through 10 are playing in San Bernardino. The winners of these two tournaments will face off in a best-of-three series to establish the Southern California champ.
“It’s not only RSF’s first championship, but their first appearance in the finals,” Burch said. “We congratulate the boys on the victory, and we also appreciate how they played the game. They upheld the standards of Little League extremely well.”
The team was selected June 15, and the players set out on an aggressive practice schedule getting ready for the July tournament. The players committed to practicing daily, Monday through Saturday. Manager Kirk McCaskill noted the boys’ enthusiasm from the start. “We scheduled morning practices and planned on being done by noon everyday,” McCaskill said. “The boys ended up staying until 1 p.m. or 1:30 p.m. every day. Their joy for the game is inspiring.”
In pool play, Rancho Santa Fe defeated Solana Beach 11-0, lost to Del Mar American (who they would eventually meet in the finals) 5-4, then advanced to the quarterfinals with a resounding 19-1 defeat of Poway National. Coach Steve Goena noticed that even in their only defeat, the team played well.
“I thought we outplayed Del Mar in the loss, (but) things just didn’t go our way,” Goena said. “We hit the ball hard, and pitched well, we just didn’t get the breaks. I think it allowed our boys to believe in themselves, knowing they played well enough to advance from pool play.”
The quarterfinal game against Del Mar National was a classic, extra-inning Little League game in which Rancho Santa Fe won in the bottom of the seventh inning, 6 to 5.
“So many Little League games are decided by whichever team has the last at bat, and this game was no different,” McCaskill said. “Both teams deserved to win, but we made a few nice plays that helped us late in the game.”
The semi-final game was against a very talented Encinitas National team. Rancho Santa Fe scored four runs in the top of the fourth inning to take a 5-2 lead. Encinitas scored one run in the bottom of the fourth, then one in the bottom of the sixth. With runners on second and third, and two outs, Rancho Santa Fe induced a fly ball to right field to cement the win, and moved on to the finals.
The final game was a rematch against a tough Del Mar American team. Rancho Santa Fe scratched out four runs in the top of the second inning, and took a 4-1 lead into last inning. After two quick outs, things began to unravel. A few errors and misplays combined with a couple of Del Mar hits, resulted in the tying run on second base. The game ended with a pop up to first base, and the celebration began.
“It was so nice to see things go our way,” McCaskill said. “In so many years past, our teams were not only out-manned, but outplayed. These boys competed very well, and never got down. They’ve accomplished something that no other Ranch team has, and something they will never forget. The joy on their faces after the final out is something I won’t soon forget.”