Encinitas Little Leaguers lose to Nevada team

Encinitas LL to next play Friday in semifinals

ENCINITAS, Calif. - The Encinitas Little League all-star team lost 8-4 Wednesday to the all-star team from the Mountain Ridge Little League of Las Vegas in the West Regional tournament in San Bernardino.

Encinitas, which still qualified for Friday's semifinals, led 3-2 going into the fourth inning, but Mountain Ridge scored four runs to take the lead for good.

However, once Encinitas scored three runs in the game, they were assured of facing Mountain Ridge again on Friday.

Encinitas wrapped up pool play with a 2-2 record, while Mountain Ridge finished 4-0.

The all-star team from the Honolulu Little League also completed pool play with a 4-0 record, including a 9-2 victory over Encinitas on Saturday.

The first of Friday's two semifinals will match the second- and third-place teams from pool play and the second will be between the first- and fourth-place teams.

Encinitas will face Mountain Ridge at 2 p.m. Pacific time and the game will be televised nationally on ESPN2.

Friday's winner will play against the winner of the semifinal between Honolulu Little League and Northern California (1-3) on Saturday at 6 p.m. Pacific time on ESPN. The last team left standing on Saturday will immediately head to the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Fans upbeat despite Wednesday's loss

On Wednesday, the Encinitas Little League team was showcased on every television at the Oggi's restaurant in Encinitas because it was a qualifier for the Little League World Series.

Nine-year-old Grayson Bonanno was glued to the game, and he said, "It's super cool! This is my league. I play for it."

He did admit he was a little jealous he didn't have dirt on his pants and a glove on his hand.  

"I wish I made it this year though," Bonnano said. "Next year, I'll be old enough."

When he grows up, he has big plans to be the San Diego Padres' first baseman.

"Most of these guys make it to the pros too," he said.

Bonnano knew what he was talking about. A few booths behind him, 37-year-old Cole Liniak was also watching the game.

Liniak was drafted by the Boston Red Sox and made the major leagues with the Chicago Cubs. It seemed no one was really talking about his 12 years as a professional ball player.

At that viewing party, his glory days were in the early 1990s when he was an Encinitas Little Leaguer.

"I think we got through the first round, and we got to the second round, and we got beat, and that was when I was 11," Liniak said.

The 2014 team has already shown his team up. Despite Wednesday's loss, they had already secured a spot at Friday's semifinals.

They even took some downtime during the week to enjoy a little skee ball and took a trip to the movies.

"I'm rooting for them," Liniak said. "These kids here, they're going to have a relationship with these guys the rest of their life, and they're definitely going to remember this."

He sure does. In fact, he still plays softball with his old ELL teammates.

Bonanno had a message for Encinitas' next opponent: "Watch out, a storm's coming through! The ELL storm!"

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