The Little League Intermediate World Series came and went through Livermore from July 31 to Aug. 7, with the West (Hawaii) representative from the United States taking the championship by beating defending champion South Korea in the finals.
The team from the Central East Maui Little League of Wailuku, Hawaii used a 5-1 win in the title game, broadcast on ESPN2, to bring home the title. While the team from Hawaii proved to be the best this year, there was some noise made from a team from the area.
The District 57 winners from Danville and Tassajara Valley Little Leagues earned a spot by winning the district tournament and grabbing the "host team" spot in the event.
The local side managed by Jim Grant, the 1981 Dublin High graduate that had a high level of success on the athletic fields while growing up, won their first two games and came within a game of earning a spot in the United States final.
"All the teams coming in earned their spots to be here," Grant said. "We had six weeks to prepare for the tournament, and we worked really hard, not just on the physical side, but the mental side as well."
Grant and his coaching staff had guided Tassajara Valley into the Series the year before, giving the group the advantage of knowing what they needed to do to prepare this year's squad.
As they addressed the mental preparation as the tournament neared, Grant enlisted the help of another former East Bay Athletic League star in Randy Winn.
Winn, who prepped at San Ramon Valley, played for five Major League Baseball teams, including the Giants and Yankees, and was well versed in what to talk with the kids about.
"Randy was able to talk about how to play in big games," Grant said. "He talked about all the mental preparation and how to embrace the moment and the crowd. He told the kids don't try to avoid it because you can't. Embrace it."
They did just that, coming out with a 5-3 win over West University Little League of Houston, Texas in the first round and followed with an 8-5 triumph over Bedford Little League from Indiana in the second round.
In their third game, Danville/Tassajara Valley dropped a 2-0 final to Florida, but still had a chance to advance to the U.S. title game by winning their next game. Hawaii, the eventual champs, put an end to the Tri-Valley's run with a 10-0 win.
Grant had high praise for Geoffery Kennedy, Brian DuRoff and Kyle Ecker on the offensive side of the game, with Kennedy, Tim Zocchi and Kason Pelz leading the way on defense.
Kennedy, the lead-off hitter, went 5-for-7 the first two games, with DuRoff delivering the hit of the tournament for Danville/Tassajara Valley - a big two-run home run that gave the team the lead for good against Indiana. Ecker had a number of hits throughout the tournament and drove in a pair of runs against Texas.
On defense, Grant commented that Kennedy turned in the tournament of his life at shortstop, with Zocchi playing well at both catcher and pitcher. Pelz completed the middle defense with a big effort at second.