On August 6, the Encinitas Little League all-star team was playing another regional playoff game for the Western Region Championship in San Bernardino. The team had advanced through the ranks to represent all 600 Leagues in Southern California.
Meanwhile, back in town, about 30 fans, friends, current and former coaches, and players gathered at Oggi’s Pizza restaurant in Encinitas to watch the 8:30 a.m. game live (on ESPN3).
Cole Liniak was there watching. He is a former Encinitas Little League player who went on to play ten seasons in the minor leagues and was called up for two seasons with the Chicago Cubs. “This Encinitas team is amazing,” said Liniak. “I also came to see my old coaches.”
One of those former Encinitas coaches watching the game was Don Garcia, who coached Liniak, along with the current team’s pitching coach, Brian Mazone. Both Liniak and Mazone played on the Encinitas team in the late ’80s.
Gene Sarenana, one of the original coaches when the Encinitas Little League was founded in 1957, was at Oggi’s. Another fan, former Encinitas mayor Danny Dalager, played for coach Sarenana in the early ’60s. Dalager later served as president of the league in 1990. He proudly wore his red 1990 league jacket.
Five boys from Paul Ecke Central Elementary School, all fifth-graders, were there to support their fellow teammates. All had played in their regular season with several of the all-star team members. John, Matt, Will, Gavin, and James agreed that it was “really cool” that their league is in the playoffs. The boys were in San Bernardino last weekend to watch the team advance to the playoffs.
Though Encinitas lost their game today (8 to 4), the team was guaranteed an additional playoff game on August 8. The winner of that game (to be played against either Hawaii or Nevada) will advance to the Western Championship final game to be played on ESPN2 on August 9 at 6:00 p.m.
Should the Encinitas Little League advance to the final game, Oggi’s is planning to host hundreds of fans, to support their team’s chances to advance to the World Series in Williamsport, PA.
Three San Diego area Little League teams have had winning trips to the World Series in recent years — two from Chula Vista. Last year’s Eastridge team and 2009’s Park View team both won the World Series title.
Oceanside’s 2001 visit to Williamsport was the first for a San Diego area team. The team was beat, however, by the Mid-Atlantic Division winners, which was later disqualified because their pitcher, Danny Almonte, turned out to be 15 years old — two years past the age limit. The disqualification promoted Oceanside to a third-place finish.