Louisiana survivors get past Missouri team in extras

Updated: August 19, 2006, 1:46 AM ET
Associated Press

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 fire chief.

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.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press