A historic run reached its conclusion in Southern California, but the Belmont-Redwood Shores Little League team is returning to the Bay Area feeling like a champion.
The NorCal team fell one game short of earning a trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa, losing 9-0 to Eastlake of Chula Vista in the West Regional championship in San Bernardino on Saturday. Despite the defeat, the Belmont-Redwood Shores team walked off the field as the first peninsula squad to ever reach the regional tournament and coach Rudy Lopez said the boys will remember the magical season for years to come.
"It's tough, especially being so close to Williamsport," Lopez said. "But we're focusing on how well we did throughout the summer. There are thousands of teams — thousands of teams — who would have loved to have been in our spot."
The team earned its trip to the West Regional by winning District 52 (peninsula), sectionals (greater Bay Area) and the divisional tournament in Roseville, which determines the Northern California champion.
From there, Belmont-Redwood Shores swept through Western Regional pool play, going 4-0, including a 3-2 win over eventual champion, Eastlake.
The boys crushed Arizona in the semifinal 8-1, but lost the rematch with Eastlake in the championship on Saturday. The team finished the season with a 21-2 record.
"We just came up a little short," Lopez said.
The team rode into the final on the strength of their arms. Nicolas Lopez pitched a no-hitter against Santa Cruz in the divisional tournament and he tossed a one-hitter against Hawaii in the West Regional.
"It was fun being with the team all the time," Nicolas Lopez said. "It was good to come this far, but we wanted to win."
Sean Lee threw equally well, fanning 19 batters over eight innings pitched prior to Saturday's loss.
Second baseman Noah Marcelo carried the team at the plate, batting over .500 in the tournament.
"He's the leadoff hitter, our spark plug," Rudy Lopez said. "He was on-base constantly, had power, hit a couple of home runs during the region."
The team will be honored in Belmont later this week and Rudy Lopez said his players are already moving on from the crushing loss
"They're 12-year-old boys," he said. "Half-an-hour after the game they were joking around, enjoying each other and having fun."