Will Lester/Los Angeles News Group
Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Mountain Ridge Little League could lose all of its games in Williamsport, Pa., at the Little League World Series and still be considered champions back home in Las Vegas.
It is the first Nevada team to reach Williamsport in nearly 70 years of the event — a feat worth celebrating regardless of what happens in the next two weeks in the 16-team tournament. Mountain Ridge begins play at 4 p.m. today against Canyon Lake from Rapid City, S.D., on ESPN2.
But the team of children ages 12 and 13 have no plans of coming home empty-handed. Although the youths are still basking in their accomplishment of reaching the World Series and enjoying their experience off the diamond, the team’s focus has quickly shifted.
Being there is nice, the stuff dreams are made of. Winning would complete the experience.
“They understand this is the opportunity of a lifetime. Let’s go play some baseball and win,” said Ashton Cave, the Mountain Ridge manager.
Mountain Ridge has done more than its share of winning this summer.
Mountain Ridge went undefeated in three tournaments to reach Williamsport, posting a 13-0 record and outscoring opponents 147-22. It won nine times by the 10-run mercy rule.
Part of the reason Nevada has never had a league qualify for the final tournament is the quality of teams in the West Region. Three World Series champions since 2008 have come from the West. Yes, Mountain Ridge has a legitimate chance to make a deep tournament run.
“We take it one game at a time, one pitch at a time, and we continue to win baseball games,” Cave said.
All tournament games will be televised by the ESPN family of networks, and more than 20,000 fans attend games. The spotlight can be overwhelming for some children.
That’s why Cave treats every game as if they were playing at Mountain Ridge Park in northwest Las Vegas. The consistency has kept the kids focused.
“We have the same routine every game, every practice,” said Brennan Holligan, a Mountain Ridge pitcher. “It’s the same exact (routine) from the first game to the last. Pregame and everything. I don’t pay attention to the crowd. I focus like it is every other game.”