A local Little League all-star team is making sure the West Coast knows it's a force to be reckoned with.
The District 45 Big League All Stars — made up of the top 16- to 18-year-old players from teams in San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Castro Valley, Hayward and Union City — was crowned the Northern California champs earlier this month.
This week they're competing in the Western States Championships in Bremerton, Wash. In just a few days, the team will know whether it's headed to the Big League World Series in South Carolina.
So far in the tournament, the team has notched a win against the perennial powerhouse Hawaiian team, and completely decimated the teams from Oregon and Nevada.
On Wednesday night, the District 45 All Stars slaughtered Nevada 21-0.
In the game against Hawaii, Pitcher Brandon Yao, who plays in the Union City Little League and on the team, kept Hawaii to one run throughout five innings, helping to secure the win against the island team.
“Hawaii has it all — small-ball, speed, power. They really forced us to play our [best] game,” coach Chris Staley told Patch.
That win gave the NorCal bunch a nice boost of confidence as they went on to play Oregon. In that game, Dimitry Castro from Union City threw a one-hitter through five innings.
Coupled with the 18 runs his offense put up, Castro's no-mercy performance led umpires to enforce a 10-run mercy rule in the fifth inning.
After the win against Nevada on Wednesday night, the team moves on to the Final 4, going up against Arizona on Thursday night. If they win, they could be pitted against the SoCal team, which plays Hawaii on Thursday.
The team that emerges victorious on Friday will go to the World Series in South Carolina.
Staley credits the team’s success to keeping it fun yet disciplined.
“We bring them all back to T-ball," he said, "back to remembering why they all started playing to begin with: fun."
To help lighten the stress of the regional championships, Staley took the players to a Seattle Mariners baseball game on one of their days off.
But he also makes sure these adolescents know that there are high expectations for all of them, and that they need to check their egos at the door for the whole team to succeed, he said. The players are on a tight schedule in Washington, which has helped them stay focused, Staley said.
The coach said this year's District 45 All Stars is one of the best teams he’s ever coached, and he thinks they have what it takes to play in the big show.
The team raised money to travel to the Western Championships, and would need to make another big fundraising effort to fund a trip to the World Series. If you'd like to help, please view the flier by clicking on the image at right.
Good luck, All Stars!