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Long run ends for Lakeside all-stars

By: Kurt Johnson, The Press Tribune
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What began on a practice field in Granite Bay two months ago finally ended Sunday night in front of a packed house in San Bernardino as the Lakeside Little League all-stars lost to Park View of Chula Vista 11-4 in the Western Region championship game. Al Houghton Stadium was packed for the all-California final, with a trip to the Little League World Series on the line. Mitch Hart gave up a pair of first-inning home runs to the powerful Southern California team, but then settled in and shut it down until he ran out of pitches with one out in the fifth frame. Facing a team that entered the contest having banged 34 round-trippers in five Western Region games, Hart yielded the two early blasts, but then mixed a tremendous curve ball with his overpowering fastball to take control. The toughest part of the first inning turned out not to be the three runs or the two homers, but the 31 pitches Hart had to throw. Andy Rios left the yard to lead off the game when his low line drive dipped just over the barrier in right-centerfield, and then with a runner aboard on an error, Kiko Garcia hit a towering blast, his 11th in the Western Region tournament. The high pitch count put the right-hander on a pace destined to force Lakeside into the bullpen, and with its No. 2 and No. 3 pitchers ineligible for this one, that turned out to be the difference. The 12 and 13-year-olds from Granite Bay and Loomis battled Park View starter Luke Ramirez, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound power pitcher and his 75 mile-per-hour heater, and worked his pitch count up quickly as well. Nick Frank walked and Hart was hit by a pitch in the first, but the team from Chula Vista escaped on the strength of an inning-ending double play. A Grant Powers knock opened the Lakeside second, and combined with a pair of walks to jam the bags for Lakeside, but they left them there on a ground ball out to second base to end the stanza. Lakeside tallied three times in the home half of the third to tie the game at 3-3. A Billy Rockefeller single got things going and a two-run Connor Briare put Lakeside on the board. Grant Powers followed with his second hit of the night, and he eventually scored the tying run, stealing home when he caught Park View napping on a return throw from the catcher to the pitcher. That score held until the fifth, but then Park View got to the Lakeside bullpen to take control. Hart, who allowed just three hits and struck out six in the contest, retired the lead hitter in the top half of the fifth, but in the process reached his 85-toss limit, sending manager Bill Rockefeller to his relief crew. Four walks, including an intentional pass to Garcia, and two errors combined with just one base hit to give the team from Southern California a five-run fifth, and the squad got back-to-back blasts from Luke Ramirez and Garcia in the sixth to put on the finishing touches. Powers put an exclamation point on his 3-for-3 night and an outstanding offensive postseason with a fifth inning home run for Lakeside but that was the end of the scoring for the squad. The loss ends the season for the team from Granite Bay and Loomis (20-2 in all-star play) and sends the club from Chula Vista on to Williamsport.