Though Tri City Little League’s run to Williamsport, Pa., for the Little League World Series came up one win short, it’s a memory the team won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
The all-star baseball team of 11- and 12-year-olds out of Rocklin lost 11-2 in the Little League Western Regional championship game to Honolulu Little League on Saturday night.
Tri City was looking to become just the fourth Sacramento-area team to reach the Little League World Series and the first since 1983, when Sacramento’s Pacific Little League took sixth.
Tri City qualified to the West Regional by winning the Northern California championship. On Saturday, Northern California matched Hawaii in the first as each scored two runs, but a five-run fourth did Tri City in.
Nathan Erickson had two of Tri City’s three hits and Ben Tipper connecting on a pinch-hit single in the fifth.
Tri City battled back to the championship game after being bounced to the consolation bracket after a 16-8 opening loss to Southern California on Aug. 5.
“It was a great experience,” Tri City manager Dave Ueltzen said. “I wouldn’t trade this. Obviously, you want to go to Williamsport, but if you fall short by one game it’s something to be proud of. The boys did great with their composure. They didn’t give up, they kept fighting.”
The experience at the Western Regional Headquarters doesn’t stop on the field, as the teams all stay on site in dormitories and receive the opportunity to not only bond with their teammates but with those on the other teams.
After getting a day off following the loss to SoCal, NorCal came back to beat Utah 6-0. That was, in a large part, thanks to a combined perfect game thrown by Erickson — who was lifted after 5 2/3 innings due to his pitch count — and Tanner Dykstra.
The next day, Tri City avenged its loss to SoCal with a 7-5 victory. In that game, Tri City gambled by pitching around two of SoCal’s sluggers who combined to hit five home runs in the previous game, and it paid off.
On Friday, Tri City tossed another shutout in its 11-0 semifinal win over Nevada. Aiden Weissenberg-Frost went 5 1/3 innings before hitting the pitch limit and Dykstra completed the shutout.
“They stuck together, even when we weren’t playing great,” Ueltzen said. “They stuck together and played as a team. We won as a team and lost as a team. Tonight, we lost as a team.”
Similar to its run at the Little League West Regional, Tri City hit some snags in qualifying San Bernardino. It dropped games in both the District 11 and NorCal state tournaments before coming back through the consolations to win them both.
It played 16 qualifying games to reach the West Regionals. For this group of Tri City Little League all-stars, it was the third year in a row that they won a NorCal championship.
Last year, Tri City won the 11-and-under tournament, and the year before the 8-10 championship.
In each of those divisions, a NorCal tournament is as far as a team can advance.
“We’ve had a great run, and that’s we talked about,” Ueltzen said. “We’ve won a lot of games, and we haven’t lost in a situation. This is new to us. We’ve always made it to the end.”