The 12-and-under Encino Little League team (7-0) earned the second step in their quest to qualify for the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa. with a 19-4 sectional championship victory over Crescenta Valley (6-2). Encino stormed through Section 2 play with an undefeated 3-0 record, outscoring opponents 43-16. This is the first time Encino has qualified for the Southern California Divisional Tournament since 1986, when the team finished fourth. Encino is one of 10 teams left in Southern California and one of 16 in the entire state.
Although the pitching for Encino has always been strong in previous years, the upgrade in hitting this season is what has propelled the team to the next level. The team employed a secret weapon to jumpstart the cause. Reggie Smith, a seven-time All-Star and 1981 World Series winner, has been working out with the team.
“When they were 8 or 9-years-old, we realized we had a ton of pitching with Jamie Robertson, Seth Stone, Elijah West and Justin Greenwald,” said Encino Manager Jeff Cohen. “They’ve carried us for years and years. This is the first year we really started to hit the ball and we attribute that to all the hard work we’ve done this year with Reggie Smith at the helm.”
The extra attention to detail at the dish, including two-a-day summer practices, led to the team averaging 14.3 runs a game in the sectional tournament.
Seth Stone smashed three RBI’s, including his third homer in four games, scored three runs, struck out seven and picked up his fourth pitching win. Justin Greenwald also blasted his third homer in four games and finished by pitching a scoreless last inning. Elijah West hit four RBI’s and scored three runs. Jack Scher hit four RBI’s and scored two runs. Shawn Goosenberg scored three times. Jamie Robertson and Blake Hanson scored twice. Cameron Bolger, Mike Cohen and Gordon Magruder added one run apiece. Bolger, Cohen, Magruder and Grant Berman drove in one RBI each.
Encino will play either El Segundo or Torrance in the first round of the divisional tournament in West Covina on Saturday, July 23 at 1 p.m.
If Encino wins the 10-team divisional tournament, they will advance to the Western Regional in San Bernardino, the final step in qualifying for Williamsport.
In the Western Regional, the Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, northern California, Southern California and Utah state champions will all vie for the one western bid.
Southern California Divisional Tournament – 2441 East Cortez Street, West Covina
Game 1 - Encino vs Section 4 Champions (7/23 - 1 p.m.)
Game 2 - Conejo Valley vs Section 5 Champions (7/23 - 4 p.m.)
Game 3 - La Verne vs Winner 1 (7/24 - 4 p.m.)
Game 4 - Loser 1 vs Loser 2 (elim.) (7/24 - 1 p.m.)
Game 5 - Winner 2 vs Winner 3 (7/25 - 7:30 p.m.)
Game 6 - Loser 3 vs Winner 4 (elim.) (7/25 - 5 p.m.)
Game 7 - Loser 5 vs Winner 6 (elim.) (7/26 - 7 p.m.)
Game 8 - Winner 5 vs Winner 7 (TITLE) (7/27 - 7 p.m.)
Game 9 - If necessary (7/28 - 7 p.m.)
Game 1 - North Bracket Champions vs South Bracket Champions (7/30 - 3 p.m.)
Game 2 - North Bracket Champions vs South Bracket Champions (7/31 - 3 p.m.)
Game 3 - If necessary (8/1 - 7 p.m.)
14-year-olds Win Sectional Title
The 14-and-under Encino Little League also won the sectional title by defeating Crescenta Valley 5-2. They will face either the Section 1 or Section 4 champion on Sunday, July 24 at 10 a.m. at Tehachapi Little League.