A dream run for a group of Elk Grove 11- and 12-year-old baseball players came to an end Friday night in Aberdeen, Md.
Laguna fell 6-4 to West Raleigh, N.C., in the 14th annual Cal Ripken Major Division World Series U.S. bracket semifinals. The double-elimination event, held at the Ripken Experience Complex, features 10 of the best U.S. teams, plus six international teams.
West Raleigh, representing the Southeast region, built a 5-0 lead in the top of the third. Laguna, representing the Pacific Southwest, scored single runs in the third and fourth innings on errors and two more in the fifth on Jonah Ira's two-run double.
But West Raleigh, which added another run in the top of the fourth, held Laguna scoreless in the sixth and final inning. West Raleigh's Tucker Jackson and Ryan Sholar combined to strike out 14 Laguna batters while Jackson also added a two-run homer.
Laguna finished 3-2 in the week-long tourney.
West Raleigh will play New Milford, Conn., in today's U.S. championship bracket game. The winner will play the winner of today's International bracket final between Japan and Mexico for the overall championship on Sunday.
The Laguna team, coached by Mike Stevens, Leo Morales and John Regino, was making its second World Series championship bid.
"The composition of the team has changed over the years, but it's been a pretty successful group," said Laguna Youth Baseball President Mike Pott. "Since they started as eight-year-olds, they have won every Northern California championship and three of five Southwest Regional championships."
That NorCal run was in jeopardy in June in the State NorCal final in Oakland. But Laguna twice beat rival Elk Grove in the double-elimination event to advance.
"That was exciting," Pott said. "We had two sixth-inning comebacks."
Laguna swept the competition in the Pacific Southwest regional, beating host Bakersfield in the finals.
Members of the team are Ira, Cole Bendle, RJ Blanton, Gabe Bonilla, Collin Dean, Jino Enriguez, Chris Long, Zach Meddings, Alex Morales, Nicolas Regino, Riley Sikora, Justin Wilburn and Grant and Carson Stevens.
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.