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GENE J. PUSKAR, AP
Ocean View's Nick Pratto, center, celebrates with teammates after driving in the winning run with a walk-off single off Hamamatsu City, Japan, pitcher Kazuto Takakura to win the Little League World Series championship.

Ocean View captures Little League World Series championship

OCVARSITY.COM

SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Over the past five years of playing baseball with his friends, Nick Pratto had imagined this one specific moment.

He’d dig in at the plate with his team down to its last out and the winning run on base. He imagined he was one hit away from being a hero.

On Sunday, Pratto got the chance to make that dream a reality, driving in the game-winning run with an RBI single in the bottom of the sixth, defeating Japan, 2-1,.to give Ocean View Little League in Huntington Beach Orange County’s first Little League World Series championship.



Pratto, who had calmly pitched his way through 11 innings in two starts against Billings, Mont., finally felt the pressure of the situation he had always wanted to experience.

“I felt it,” Pratto said. “When I came up to the plate, I was just thinking, ‘Oh God. Oh God.’

“Once I got in the box, I just had to calm down, get my head straight and see the ball.”

Pratto got ahead in the count and lined the ball into center field, and as he rounded first base, he began to celebrate before being mobbed by his teammates.

Hagen Danner, who hit a solo home run in the third, said he had noticed something strange when looking through the pictures of past Little League World Series winners.

“Baseball in Orange County, the teams are all really good,” Danner said. “I had thought there had to be some Orange County teams in there.

“Then when I was looking through the pictures (of the winners), I noticed there weren’t any.”

Ocean View is the seventh California team to win the Little League World Series. In 2009, Chula Vista defeated Chinese Taipei. Two previous Orange County teams had reached the championship game -- most recently South Mission Viejo in 1997 --- but neither won the big prize.

Pratto got the chance to live out his fantasy because pitcher Braydon Salzman cooled the Japanese bats, allowing just three hits while walking none and striking out nine in six innings.

“I keep saying it,” Ocean View manager Jeff Pratto said. “I’ve said it maybe three times.

“But (today), he pitched the greatest game of his life.”

Salzman got out of a jam in the sixth to keep Ocean View even and set up the championship-clinching heroics.

Ocean View entered the bottom of the sixth inning tied with Japan, 1-1, and Braydon Salzman led it off with a walk. Dylan Palmer, who had a home run in the U.S. championship game, singled to give the team two runners on with no out.

After a strikeout, Danner reached on an error to load the bases, but Japan got a force out at the plate for the second out.

Pratto then delivered the ultimate clutch hit, a single to center to score Eric Anderson for the victory.

"I was looking for a pitch to drive and I got one," Pratto said.

The game, which was pushed back 3 1/2 hours due to Hurricane Irene-related rain showers, was as advertised, with Japan and Ocean View locked in a pitcher's duel.

Japan struck first, scoring from first on a sacrifice bunt and an error, going up 1-0 in the third. But in the bottom of the inning, Ocean View's Hagen Danner knotted the game at 1 with his second home run of the tournament.

Down 0-1 in the count, Danner drove a fastball away over the right-field wall.

Salzman, pitching in his team-leading fourth game of the Series, had another fine outing, working six innings. Salzman struck out nine and gave up only three hits an an unearned run for the complete-game victory.

"Yeah, I was nervous because it WAS the championship game at the Little League World Series," Salzman said.

Japanese starter Shoto Tatsuka matched Salzman, allowing only one run on three hits over 4 2/3 innings.

With Justin Cianca's pinch-hit single and Jack Furry's pinch-hit walk in the fourth, each member of Ocean View's team reached base over the course of the Little League World Series.

The Little League World Series set a record with 414,905 spectators in attendance for the 31 games. The old record, set over 32 games in 2010, was 381,028.

Just because the series is over, the Ocean View team's journey is just getting underway.

Ocean View's players will be honored with a parade in Huntington Beach on Sept. 10. The team is also expected to be honored at an Angels' game.


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