Members of the Manhattan/Hermosa Beach West Regional championship team include (top row, left to right) Coach Matt Sugarman, Nathan Nykaza, Jesse Storey, Jake Gordon, Nick Locke-Henderson, Wyatt Robb, Joey Acosta, Chris Penna, Sean McDonald, Merrick Baldo, Dylan Dennis, Manager Keith Ramsey (bottom Row) Garrett Auville, Nick Solan and Logan Kane. Photo by Mark Auville
An impressive all-star run came to an end Friday when the boys from the South Bay were outdueled by Texas, losing to the Southwest champions 4-2 in the U.S. championship game at the 34th Little League Junior World Series in Taylor, Michigan.
Manhattan Beach had no answer to Brandon Broughton, who led Texas on the mound and at the plate. Broughton’s third-inning home run gave the Texans a 1-0 lead and he recorded eight strikeouts, allowing four hits and two walks in five innings of work.
West representative Manhattan Beach scored two runs in the top of the seventh inning on RBI by Chris Penna and Joey Acosta, but it was too little, too late. Manhattan Beach left nine runners on base and failed to have an extra-base hit for the second time against Texas.
“I still feel like we’re good enough to be U.S. champs,” Manhattan Beach head coach Keith Ramsey said. “I don’t think the kids realize what a big deal it is to go this far, especially for a team that draws from a relatively small area like Manhattan and Hermosa.”
Approximately 3,300 teams from across the country began the summer all-star season with hopes of reaching the World Series.
“The kids on this team were incredible,” Ramsey said. “They were so much fun to be around and there were no complaints about lack of playing time and everyone accepted his role. It was a family atmosphere.”
Manhattan Beach went 3-1 in pool play, losing only to Texas 10-6 when Broughton knocked in four RBI and allowed only one hit while striking out seven in three innings of relief pitching.
Texas, however, was no match for Asia-Pacific and International champion Chinese Taipei who routed the U.S. representative 9-1.
“Broughton was like a manchild,” said Dennis Kane, whose son Logan played on the Manhattan Beach team. “We had tall guys on our team but he was broad-shouldered and mature. But the kids had a blast and made a lot of new friends, including players from Curacao and Chinese Taipei.”
Like most teenagers, the players exchanged contact information for Instagram and other forms of social media.
Throughout the tournament, Acosta and Penna were the offensive stars for Manhattan Beach. Acosta batted .526 with two home runs, one double and 11 RBI.
Penna finished with a team-leading .571 batting average. He hit one home run, had five RBI and scored four runs. Wyatt Robb batted .385 with two doubles and Nathan Nykaza contributed two doubles in the tournament.
Manhattan Beach opened pool play in dramatic fashion, pulling out an 8-7 win over Southeast champion Rutherfordton, NC.
The West champs jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning and were up 6-0 going into the third inning. The Southeast chipped away at the lead tying the game at seven with two runs in the top of the sixth inning.
In the final frame, Nick Locke-Henderson’s hard ground ball to second base scored Penna with the winning run.
Robb went 3 for 3 with three RBI in the game. Acosta also had three hits for Manhattan Beach.
In the second pool game, the West squad held off the Central champions from Midland, MI for a 9-6 victory.
Manhattan Beach managed only seven hits compared to 13 by the Central team, but Acosta recorded six RBI on three hits.
Pitcher Jesse Storey kept Central in check allowing only two hits and no earned runs in four innings of work.
In Manhattan Beach’s first loss to Texas, Locke-Henderson had two RBI and two hits to lead the West team.
After Texas jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, the West tied the score in the top of the second inning. Texas then scored eight unanswered runs in the next three innings.
Manhattan Beach rallied with one run in the fifth inning and three in the sixth but couldn’t catch up. With the top two teams from the pool slated to meet for the U.S. championship, the loss put extra pressure on the West who faced East champion Newark, DE in the final pool game.
The West squad led 2-0 after one inning of play and broke the game wide open scoring eight runs in the third inning. Penna had two hits and three RBI and Acosta and Garrett Auville each had two hits and two RBI.
Nick Solan picked up the win, allowing no runs on four hits with four strikeouts in five innings of work.
Members of the Manhattan/Hermosa Beach team included Joey Acosta, Garrett Auville, Merrick Baldo, Dylan Dennis, Jake Gordon, Logan Kane, Nick Locke-Henderson, Sean McDonald, Nathan Nykaza, Chris Penna, Wyatt Robb, Nick Solan, Jesse Storey, manager Keith Ramsey and assistant coaches Jackson Morrow and Matt Sugarman.
Manhattan/Hermosa Beach reached the World Series by winning the 11-team West Region in Vancouver, WA with a 6-0 record defeating state champions from Washington, Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Northern California (Pleasanton) and Arizona again in the finals, 16-4. The team outscored opponents 76-25.
Junior teams consist of 13 and 14-year-olds, primarily kids who just finished 8th grade however, the Manhattan/Hermosa team had two players who just completed 9th grade and were on the Mira Costa Frosh team and two who recently finished 7th grade.
It’s uncommon for two teams from the same Little League to reach their respective World Series, but Manhattan Beach was three outs away from accomplishing the feat.
The league’s Senior All-Stars fell to Hawaii 12-4 in the Western Regional championship game after surrendering 10 runs in the 7th inning.
The team consisted of Reese Alexiades, David Arredondo, Matt Bessera, Nick Brown, Ty Conrad, Dom Devico, Nathan Draves, Joey Hanson, Ben Laduke, Rollie Nichols, Carson Phillips, Jason Schwartz, Colton Sizemore, Jake Symon, Kohl Titzler, James Tullio, manager Hugh Quattlebaum and assistant coaches Aaron Meyers and Carlos Rojas.