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Champs from O.C. make themselves at home at LLWS
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Prior to Saturday's U.S. Championship against Billings, Mont., Ocean View manager Jeff Pratto received an unusual gift from an Ocean View Little League parent without a child on the all-star team.
Eric Willis, a friend of Pratto's, mailed the team dirt from the Ocean View Little League field – separating it by position on the field. Before the victory over Billings, and Sunday, before their 2-1 victory over Japan for the Little League World Championship, the Ocean View players sprinkled a piece of home on the field at Lamade Stadium.
The gesture will be one of a lifetime full of memories that boys from Huntington Beach will be bringing home with them.
Nick Pratto said he'll always remember be the final hit – the one that won his team the Little League World Series. Braydon Salzman said he'll never forget being able to talk to all the international players. Hagen Danner said the whole experience will never leave him.
They'll all remember the bond that was formed, the hard work they put in and the end result, celebrating on Sunday afternoon at the Little League World Series.
While the team rolled along in South Williamsport, the players and the coaching staff assured people that these games weren't a big deal in their minds.
But after Sunday's triumph, with their guards let down, the truth trickled out.
When asked if he was ready to concede that what the team had just accomplished was a big deal, Nick Pratto's grin stretched from ear to ear.
"Oh yeah," he said.
But getting to this point wasn't easy, as the Ocean View team had to survive a gantlet of some of the best youth baseball teams in the country.
"This team was selected June 15," Jeff Pratto said. "We had our first practice the very next day."
Throughout the process, the Ocean View team had to get through districts, sectionals, divisionals, sub-divisionals and regionals before making it to the World Series. Along the way, the team went from representing their league in Huntington Beach all the way to representing the West region.
And while their family and friends chanted "O-V, O-V" to rally the boys, the rest of the fans rooting for the West chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A."
"This is just a dream come true," Danner said. "I just never thought we'd be in that spot, ending up winning it all."
And Ocean View Little League will be a part of it forever – whether it's in the dirt spread in the outfield or in the record books.
"We left some here," Jeff Pratto said. "But we're bringing some back with us, too."
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