SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. -- The baby-faced boys from Lake
Charles, La., are practically grizzled veterans at the Little
League World Series.
Most of the players from the South Lake Charles Little League
team have been together for five or six years. Their goal has been
getting to Little League's biggest stage, and they arrived Friday
night winning a great game.
The Southwest bracket champ defeated Columbia, Mo., 1-0, in an
extra-inning game marked by good pitching and timely defense. Gabe
Von Rosenberg's deep fly ball to center drove Paul Beglis home from
third with the game-winning run in the top of the ninth.
Louisiana pitchers allowed just one hit. Nick Zaunbrecher struck
out Nick de Jong of Midwest region winner Columbia (0-1) with a
runner on first and two outs to end the game, and players from Lake
Charles (1-0) skipped off the diamond in delight.
"I was just thinking to hit the ball in the gap the other
way," Beglis said about his key hit.
Manager Josh Corman likes his team's chances with two of his
best pitchers on his staff still yet to start. Friday's starter,
Gavin Cecchini, was filling in for an injured pitcher in the
rotation, and struck out seven and walked five over six innings.
"We are sitting where we want to be," he said. "We are
nowhere near done."
Sporting a crisp, new uniform while waiting to take swings at a
batting cage earlier this week, Beglis said he wouldn't be nervous
for the big game -- just a little dazzled.
"It's awesome. The facilities are awesome. The batting cages
are awesome," the 13-year-old said.
Taylor Butler, a 12-year-old pitcher and third baseman, leaned
on a shiny new aluminum bat and saw things this way.
"It feels like being in the big leagues," he said.
Raissa Cecchini, mother of shortstop Gavin Cecchini, said some
parents of the Lake Charles boys began talking six years ago
between innings or at post-game pizza parties about keeping their
boys on the same team.
The boys -- the ones came up with the idea -- had neighbors for
role models. Teams from Lake Charles also played at the Little
League World Series in 1992 and 2001.
"They had this dream to do something special from a young
age," Cecchini said.
But it wasn't just the players who longed to make the trip
north. Five years ago, manager Josh Corman asked his father, Ben,
if he would help him coach the team.
"He said, 'Well, we're going to go to Williamsport, if you help
me work with the kids,'" Ben Corman said in recalling the
conversation with Josh.
"I didn't know it would be five years," he added as he kept an
eye on players in the batting cage.
It's a fitting finish to the season for the Cormans: Josh
Corman, a high school baseball coach, is moving from Lake Charles
soon to take another coaching job in Louisiana.
"It's well worth all the work," said Ben Corman, a retired
The Lake Charles area is still recovering from Hurricane Rita,
which struck landfall near Lake Charles nearly a year ago. While
dealing with the aftermath, baseball became a soothing distraction.
Two weeks after the storm hit, volunteers helped clear fallen
tree limbs and debris from the Little League field so players could
practice, Corman said.
The South Lake Charles Little League has lost players since the
hurricane -- some families haven't returned, or chose not to return.
That might reduce the number of teams next year. So the hope is the
trip to South Williamsport generates new interest.