Friday Aug 21 2009
A look back at a special summer
By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
The baseball runs ends, but the memories linger for Lakeside all-stars
The recently concluded Lakeside Little League run to the brink of the Little League World Series turned the summer upside down for the families of 12 young ballplayers. With practices that began on June 15, and a return to town just in time to start the new school year, the team essentially spent its summer on the diamond. “I think that is great,” said Lakeside manager Bill Rockefeller. “I don’t think these kids would have enjoyed anything but that.” In looking back at the experiences, Rockefeller struggled to pin down any one moment as his highlight of the summer, as his team compiled 20 wins in 22 starts against high-level competition. “I think one of the biggest highlights was Grant (Powers) stealing home to tie up the championship game,” Rockefeller said. “He is such a talented and instinctive player.” In terms of rating the opposition, Rockefeller is convinced that surviving the initial local tournaments was as tough as anything his team saw. Other than a slight blip on the screen in 2007, when El Dorado Hills North took the District 54 title and then Sunrise Little League of Citrus Heights took the District 4 crown, Lakeside and Roseville’s Woodcreek have owned this area. “Beating Woodcreek twice (in district play) was huge for us,” Rockefeller said. “They have been the rival for a long time and that team was right up there with San Ramon. We also were nervous early against Tri-City (in the section final) and the Dylan Keeney grand slam in that game was very memorable.” Woodcreek has had some outstanding teams, and its 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008 Major division all-star teams all won not only district but also section titles, but each fell short in the Northern California Divisional tournament. Lakeside, on the other hand, has been to the NorCal finals twice – in 2003 and this season – and on both occasions, the kids from Granite Bay and Loomis have reached the regional event in San Bernardino. “You cannot believe how difficult it is to accomplish what they have done,” said longtime Woodcreek coach Tom Bryce. “Lakeside has gotten great pitching, solid defense, timely hitting and great coaching.” One of the major differences for this Lakeside team may well have been its ability to call on the experiences of the 2003 team in being better prepared for the Western Region tourney. “We got to San Bernardino, out of the cars and into the barracks,” Rockefeller said. “Then we walked out to the field and their eyes were as big as silver dollars.” The all-stars did not seemed to get caught up in the awe of the big moment as they ran off five straight wins, the fifth in dramatic fashion, to reach the Western Region final. The pitching of Mitch Hart, Nick Frank and Zach Hall was amazing, and Hall’s game-winning long balls in the Northern California final and again in the Western Region semifinals are among Rockefeller’s best memories. The final, against the team from Southern California, was an overwhelming experience as the Northern California champs hung with the mighty Chula Vista juggernaut in front of a capacity crowd at Al Houghton Stadium. The contest was tied 3-3 into the fifth before Park View Little League pulled away. “The crowd (larger than 10,000) was 90 percent for So Cal,” Rockefeller said. “My biggest job was to try to keep the crowd out of the game.” While the run ended on Sunday night in Southern California, the memories will live on for the Lakeside all-stars, who have made the rounds of the Sacramento-area morning TV shows after their return this week, squeezing media events in between junior high classes.