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Westport didn't play like underdog during LLWS

Published 11:00 pm, Saturday, August 24, 2013
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SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- His team was labeled one of the favorites at the Little League World Series, but Chula Vista, Calif., manager Rick Tibbett refused to call his opponent an underdog.

Time ran out Saturday on Westport's historic summer. They were far from perfect, and against the latest in a long line of powers to hail from the West region, the slightest flaw was too great to overcome.

"I don't think they were an underdog coming into the tournament. (Westport) played well," Tibbett said after California's 12-1 win in the United States title game. "We knew we had our work cut out for us. We knew how good they were. ... Give them credit, they played a long ways."

In fact, Westport made it as far as any team from Connecticut since 1989 when Trumbull won the LLWS title -- the fourth team from the Constitution State to do so. They won a remarkable 20 straight games, but their magic wore out over the last four days in South Williamsport, Pa., with a pair of losses to Chula Vista.

"I want these guys to immediately celebrate their success and not worry about this game," Westport manager Tim Rogers said. "(Chula Vista's) just a fantastic team. To be on the same field with them and be one of the last two teams in the U.S. ... is just remarkable."

Chula Vista's the team that was supposed to get this far, the team that can line up one slugger after another. Its leadoff hitter, second baseman Micah Pietila-Wiggs is a robust 10-for-15 at the plate at the LLWS, while its No. 3 and 4 hitters Nick Mora and Grant Holman have paired to slam five home runs.

California was the team to hit Westport ace Chad Knight, and arguably the only team to do so. After seeing his pitching staff knocked around for 12 hits, Rogers tipped his proverbial cap.

"I just scratch my head. We changed locations, we changed sequencing, in terms of offspeed versus fastballs, and they're just very well disciplined," Rogers said. "They look fastballs, they foul off curveballs, and when they get a pitch they like, they go get it."

All that's now left for Westport is a consolation game against international runner-up Tijuana, Mexico on Sunday at 11 a.m.

"It's OK," said Rogers, reflecting on the loss. "We're going to have some fun, we're going to play hard, we're going to try to win like we would any game."

Chula Vista will have more to play for -- much, much more. Up next is the LLWS championship game against Japan on Sunday at 3 p.m. Seven teams from California have already won titles -- three more than any other state -- including Chula Vista in 2009.

Against a team this accomplished hailing from a LL baseball hotbed, anything short of a perfect performance wasn't enough to win. Westport, perhaps emotionally and physically taxed by a stunning comeback on Friday -- a 14-13 win over Sammamish, Wash -- was uncharacteristically sloppy. It made five errors, three in the first inning. Six of the 12 runs allowed were unearned.

"It might've taken some out of them," said Rogers, referring to Westport's seven-run rally against Washington. "We came out a little flat."

For Westport, "flat" was enough to crush its hopes.

Dbonjour@scni.com; 203-255-4561 ext 114; twitter.com/DougBonjour

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