Rancho San Diego Dawgs battle to the end in Little League playoffs

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Though there will be no East County representative in this year’s Little League World Series, that does not diminish the accomplishments of this summer’s California District 41 and California District 66 teams that represented the East County region in all-star tournament play.

Though there will be no East County representative in this year’s Little League World Series, that does not diminish the accomplishments of this summer’s California District 41 and California District 66 teams that represented the East County region in all-star tournament play.

Kudos go to District 41’s Rancho San Diego Little League, in particular, after advancing teams to championship games in both the 12U and 11U California Section 7 championship tournaments. Meanwhile, District 66 champion Valley de Oro earned a berth in the 10U Section 7 championship game.

California Section 7 tournament play wrapped up Monday, July 20, with the 10U all-star championship game at Spring Valley Little League while the 12U section tournament took place July 14-17 at Fletcher Hills Little League.

12U All-Stars

The 12U age division follows the road to South Williamsport, Pa. The Rancho San Diego Dawgs earned the right to represent District 41 after winning the district tournament title on July 10.

Rancho San Diego did it the hard way, in fact, by recording wins in its final three games, including two elimination games against Lakeside National, to successfully come out of the elimination bracket.

Rancho San Diego opened Section 7 tournament play on July 14 with a 3-1 victory against California District 22 champion Calexico. The District 41 champions then met District 42 champion Sweetwater Valley in an ensuing winners bracket game, though dropping a 20-5 decision to fall into the elimination bracket once again.

Rancho San Diego defeated Calexico, 9-6, for a second time to advance to the section championship game against Sweetwater Valley on July 17.

In the first match up between the teams, Sweetwater Valley cranked out six home runs in the first inning while zooming in front 10-0. Sweetwater Valley hit 10 home runs in the championship game rematch to score an 18-7 win and eliminate District 41 champion Rancho San Diego.

Vencel Yousif recorded 13 strikeouts in the 3-1 win over Calexico and hit a decisive three-run home run in the second win over Calexico to keep Rancho San Diego in championship contention.

In the section championship game, Mario Johnson put a dent in Sweetwater Valley’s early 7-0 lead by hitting a three-run home run in the top of the third inning. Braeden Ross countered with a grand slam home run in the top of the fourth inning for RSD, but it was not nearly enough.

Besides Yousif, Johnson and Ross, Rancho San Diego’s 12U all-star team roster also included Cameron Bigley, Brandon Bingham, Justin Carroll, Benjamin Dirksen, Christopher Domes, Jacob Entrekin, Dylan Kendall, Aaron Lopez, Luke Mansy and Trevor Thompson.

Steve Lopez served as team manager, with coaches Dominic Dirksen and Dale Entrekin.

Rancho San Diego defeated El Cajon Western, Lakeside National and Santee Pioneer in district pool play before opening double-elimination bracket play with wins over Lakeside American and West Hills.

Rancho San Diego dropped a rematch against Lakeside National but came back with three consecutive wins, defeating West Hills and Lakeside National (twice) to win the district banner.

Ross hit the decisive home run in the double-elimination championship game win over Lakeside National. Mansy also homered in the game for RSD while Tyler Glowacki gave Lakeside National a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a home run.

Lemon Grove represented District 66 in the 12U Section 7 tournament, dropping contests to Sweetwater Valley and Calexico to bow out after two games.

11U All-Stars

Rancho San Diego (District 41) and Valley de Oro (District 66) represented East County in the 11U Section 7 championship tournament that took place July 15-18 at Chula Vista American Little League.

The two East County teams met in the tournament opener on July 15, with Rancho San Diego recording a mercy-rule 15-5 victory over Valley de Oro.

Paolo Medina hit a grand slam home run in the first inning to help power the Dawgs to an early 5-0 advantage while Wyatt Laub hit a walk-off two-run shot to end the game by virtue of the 10-run mercy rule.

Laub started the game, with Ethan Heider earning the win in relief. Weston Clark scored three runs for RSD in the blowout win.

Rancho San Diego then met District 42 champion Chula Vista American in a winners bracket game on July 16, with CV American relegating Rancho San Diego to the elimination bracket by virtue of a 19-4 victory.

Meanwhile, Valley de Oro dropped District 22 champion Calexico from the tournament by defeating the Imperial Valley team, 15-5, in an elimination bracket game on July 16. That set up a challenger bracket final between Valley de Oro and Rancho San Diego on July 17.

Rancho San Diego eliminated Valley de Oro, 17-5, to advance to the championship game on July 18. Thunder, light rain and sporadic lightning flashes added a dramatic backdrop to the contest.

Despite taking early leads of 4-0 and 6-2 over Chula Vista American in the championship game, Rancho San Diego could not hold on, eventually dropping an 11-6 finals encounter.

Heider slammed a two-run home run in the bottom of the third inning to push RSD to it second four-run lead in the game.

However, that cushion promptly evaporated as CVA piled up four runs in each of the next two frames to jump in front 10-6. CVA tacked on another run in the top of the sixth inning to complete its run of nine unanswered runs to claim the section title.

Rancho San Diego won five consecutive games, including two games against Santana National, to capture the District 41 title. The Dawgs finished the section tournament 2-2 to finish 9-3 overall in all-star play.

RSD manager Eric Scribner emphasized it was a team effort from the beginning for his squad.

"It took the whole team," Scribner explained. "We had to use subs for pitching, a lot of hitting and heart from the boys. They had no-giving-up on their minds. We just came up short against a good-hitting team (in the section championship game)."

Besides Heider, Laub, Clark and Medina, other RSD 11U all-stars included Spencer Campillo,  Kadin Collier, Trey Henige, Chase Laird, Colin Scribner, Rhett Skeels, Deverin Smith, Garrett Stein and Matthew Tellous.

Coaches included Scott Henige and Forrest Clark.

Rancho San Diego defeated Singing Hills and Rios Canyon in pool play to open this year’s District 41 championship tournament. After a loss to Santana National to open double-elimination bracket play, Rancho San Diego defeated Rios Canyon, Lakeside American and Alpine to draw a rematch against Santana National in the championship game.

Rancho San Diego defeated Santana National twice to win the district banner.

10U All-Stars

Valley de Oro (District 66) and Cajon de Oro (District 41) represented East County in the 10U Section 7 championship tournament that took place July 14-20 at Spring Valley Little League.

Cajon de Oro defeated California District 22 champion Imperial, 16-3, in its tournament opener on July 15 while Valley de Oro absorbed a 14-7 defeat at the hands of District 42 champion Sweetwater Valley on July 14.

Valley de Oro knocked Imperial out of the tournament in an elimination bracket game on July 16, winning by a score of 10-0, while Sweetwater Valley shut out Cajon de Oro, 9-0, in a winners bracket game on July 17.

That brought the two East County teams to a showdown in an elimination bracket game on July 19, with Valley de Oro eliminating Cajon de Oro by a score of 6-0.

Sweetwater Valley edged Valley de Oro, 3-2, in the championship game on Monday, July 20, to advance to the sub-division tournament. The District 42 champions erased a 2-1 Valley de Oro lead with two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to prevail in dramatic fashion.

Valley de Oro’s 10U all-star team included the following players: Anthony Box-Agustin, River Diaz De Leon, Cruz Fiedler, Isaiah Hilke, Branden Jackel, Kameron Kruse, Davis Langfeldt, Tyler Lemen, Noah Olivieri, Ethan Parker, Jacob Schweizer and Hayden Wilson.

Bill Hilke served as team manager, with coaches Dave Fiedler and Justin Stiles

Valley de Oro defeated Lemon Grove, 12-2, to win this year’s District 66 championship title. Valley de Oro opened tournament play with commanding victories against San Diego American (23-0) and Spring Valley (10-0).

Lemon Grove defeated Spring Valley, 13-12, in the challenger bracket final to advance to meet Valley de Oro in the championship game.

Cajon de Oro defeated Santana National to win the District 41 championship.

Big Dawgs

Rancho San Diego Little League has produced top players who have gone on to play at the elite level. They include the sibling tandems of Ryan and Sean O’Sullivan and Drew and Greg Garcia, all of whom attended Valhalla High School.

Greg Garcia is currently with the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball while Sean O’Sullivan made his MLB debut in 2009 with the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles and played briefly with the San Diego Padres in 2013.

Ryan O’Sullivan is currently playing in his fifth season of pro baseball, the last two with the Reading Fightin Phils of the Eastern League.

Drew Garcia was drafted in the 21st round of the 2008 MLB drat and played for the United States national team in the 2011 Baseball World Cup and 2011 Pan American Games.

Both Garcia brothers are the grandsons of former MLB player and manager Dave Garcia.

Based on this year’s success, more Rancho San Diego Dawgs all-stars could be following in their footsteps.

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