The South Pasadena Little League Major All-Stars, fresh off winning the District 18 baseball championship, earned the right to play in the Section 3 tournament.
“It was a great experience for [my] guys who worked so hard to get there,” South Pasadena coach Chris Cortinez said of playing in the sectional tournament. “I knew from the start this was a special group of young players and we just needed to put it together at the right time, and sure enough we did to get there.”
South Pasadena, comprised mostly of boys ages 11-12, played three games at sectional in Claremont, whose Little League hosted the tournament. Although South Pasadena did not advance to the next tournament, they did their best in the rare opportunity presented them by their successes this season.
South Pasadena’s team members were Julian Barnes, Lucas Becerra, Chris Cortinez, Grayson Ebner, Kory How, Charlie Karr, David Kemper, Matt Nagel, Jack Olsen, EJ Pearson, Cody Robinson, Matt Rogers and Ian Wong.
“I’m proud of my team,” Cortinez said. “They all came so far, every single one of them. They all grew as a team and the chemistry was great. I wish we could have kept playing.”
The South Pasadena All-Stars came out on fire in their first game, which pitted them against Upland American Little League, the champions of District 23. South Pasadena had the bats going strong, leading to a resounding 13-0 victory in a game shortened to four innings via the mercy rule that kicks in if a team builds a 10-run advantage after the midway point of a regulation six-inning contest.
“We just came out swinging the bats, and that is how we ended districts — swinging our way to championship. We just continued that with a hot start. Everybody was contributing,” Cortinez said. “It was really great to come out and have a strong showing like that.”
Pitchers Robinson, Becerra and Rogers all contributed to the shutout win. At the plate, Robinson had three hits and Cortinez, son of the coach of the same name, belted a home run.
After a day off, South Pasadena next matched up against host Claremont, which would go on to win the sectional championship. This game didn’t go the way of South Pasadena, which suffered a 9-0 loss.
“That was a powerhouse team we were playing,” Cortinez said.
The game was scoreless through four innings, with Karr looking outstanding on the mound for South Pasadena. Then Karr neared his pitch-count maximum, as defined by Little League rules, and District 20 champion Claremont came alive offensively en route to the win.
The tournament was double-elimination so, with no time to rest, South Pasadena took the field again the next day against West Covina American Little League. The winners of District 19 defeated South Pasadena, 14-4, in a matchup which ended in the fifth inning due to the mercy rule.
“It gets tougher as you go along,” Cortinez said. “No time and games consecutive days and you just don’t have the pitching, or it just doesn’t go as planned, it makes things tougher and that is kind of what we ran into.”
West Covina went up 8-0 before South Pasadena got on the board, with the big offensive blow coming on a three-run homer off Cortinez’s bat. However, it would not be enough and the loss eliminated the District 18 champs after a historic run.
“We accomplished something that hasn’t been done in a while,” coach Cortinez said of reaching the sectional tournament. “I was proud of these guys and I wish them all the best… This is something that is [now] part of the history of South Pasadena.”