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Ocean View armed, dangerous in Little League World Series
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Two years ago Chula Vista mashed its way to a Little League World Series championship, shattering the tournament record for home runs.
Ocean View manager Jeff Pratto knows his team will not threaten that record during its Series appearance. But if his pitchers keep providing stellar performances the end result could be the same.
Outstanding pitching has carried Ocean View to South Williamsport and Friday, Braydon Salzman, Nick Pratto and Ryo Takada combined on a three-hit shutout in an 11-0 Series opening victory over Rhode Island.
Maybe the most impressive aspect of that victory? Ace Hagen Danner never even had to warm up. That means the team that appears to lead the U.S. field in the arms race can use Danner for his full 85 pitches in Sunday's winner's bracket game against the Great Lakes team from La Grange, Ky., a 1-0 winner Friday over Mid-Atlantic.
Even better, another Ocean View victory and Pratto will have just about all his pitching options on the table since it would not have to play again until Wednesday.
"We're not a team that is going to come out and pound five homers in a game, that's not just us," Pratto said. "Our foundation is our pitching. Our defense has been reasonably good enough to always complement the pitching."
That was evident Friday as Ocean View played an error-free game behind its three pitchers and controlled the game from start to finish. While Pratto did not throw Danner against Rhode Island, it was hardly like he was taking a risk.
This basically is a team with a bunch of aces.
Salzman threw a two-hit shutout in a West Region victory over Utah and went 2-0 at regionals with a 0.00 earned-run average before throwing three shutout innings and striking out five Friday.
Pratto did not allow a hit in 42/3 innings at regionals and stretched his hitless streak to 62/3 innings Friday.
Danner struck out 14 while throwing a three-hitter in the West championship against Red Bluff, Ryo Takada struck out two in his one inning Friday and Trevor Windisch has pitched well this summer.
You get the idea. Ocean View is loaded.
"We knew coming in their pitching was going to be a step up," Rhode Island manager Dave Belisle said. "They're a team to be reckoned with."
While nine players delivered 11 hits against Rhode Island, it is that pitching which has made Ocean View one of the favorites to reach the world championship. Not that it is looking past Sunday.
"Right now it's make sure your arms are sound," Pratto said. "Make sure you're throwing is good and keep the sticks going."
Ocean View planned to spend its off day Saturday working in the batting cages while balancing practice with fun. The players love the ping-pong table that all 16 teams use, but the burly Pratto is not joining in.
"I'm not exactly built for ping-pong," he said with a laugh.