ENCINITAS, Calif. - The all-star team from the Encinitas Little League will begin play in the West Regional tournament in San Bernardino on Saturday, facing the Hawaiian champion Honolulu Little League all-star team.
Encinitas qualified for the West Regional by winning the Southern California divisional tournament, defeating the Long Beach Little League all-star team two games to one in the best-of-three championship series, including a 9-3 victory in Game 3 Sunday in El Cajon.
The team previously won sectional and divisional tournaments and has a 13-2 record. This is the first time a team from the Encinitas Little League, which was formed in 1957, has advanced to the West Regional, according to league officials.
Encinitas will play four pool play games in the six-team West Regional. The top four teams will advance to the semifinals, which will be played Friday. The semifinal winners will play in the regional final next Saturday.
The tournament will be played at Al Houghton Stadium in San Bernardino.
All pool play games will be televised by the ESPN3 broadband network.
Watch parties will be held at Oggi's Pizza and Brewing on Encinitas Boulevard for Saturday's 4:30 p.m. game and Sunday's 7 p.m. game against the Northern California champion Pacifica American Little League all-star team.
Honolulu opened the West Regional by defeating Pacifica, 10-5, on Friday.
The tournament winner will advance to the Little League World Series, which is played in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Ten teams from San Diego County have played in the Little League World Series, including the Eastlake Little League all-star team from Chula Vista last year.
"We're not focused on getting to a certain spot, we're focused on how we're performing, controlling things that are under our own control, behaving with sportsmanship, being good competitors," Encinitas manager Chaz Gagne told a local television station.
The team has received congratulatory messages from San Diego Padres manager Bud Black and San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
Black called reaching the West Regional "so great" and told the players to "enjoy the process" and reminded them "this is a time (you) will never forget."
Rivers said some of his best memories were from playing Little League baseball.
"There's nothing better than playing all-star baseball and the fact that you have a chance to play in the Little League World Series is awesome," Rivers said.