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November 28, 2014

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Las Vegas loves its Little League stars

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Gene J. Puskar / AP

Las Vegas’ Justin Hausner leaps on home plate and celebrates with teammates Austin Kryszczuk, center, and Brad Stone after all three scored on a double by Drew Laspaluto off Chicago’s Joshua Houston in the first inning of the U.S. championship game at the Little League World Series tournament in South Williamsport, Pa., Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014.

Mountain Ridge Little League at City Hall

Members of the Mountain Ridge Little League team head to a bus during a ceremony at Las Vegas City Hall Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014. After the ceremony, the team boarded an double-decker, open-air Big Bus for a police-escorted parade down the Las Vegas Strip. Launch slideshow »

They gave us a reason to cheer. They made us proud to be Las Vegans.

Mountain Ridge Little League of northwest Las Vegas was the first team from Nevada to qualify for the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., finishing fourth in the 16-team event and taking residents on a journey they won’t soon forget.

We cheered loudly and looked for someone to celebrate with when they won, and took to social media to express our disappointment when they lost. Mountain Ridge fell to Jackie Robinson Little League of Chicago on Aug. 23 in the U.S. championship game.

We packed viewing parties and asked casino officials to put games on resort televisions, overly anxious to root for a group of 12- and 13-year-old ballplayers most of us have never met.

They are being called the second-most successful sports team in our town’s history behind UNLV’s 1990 national championship team.

They returned from Williamsport to thousands of well-wishers at McCarran International Airport, then received a hero’s welcome when they returned to school a day after other students started.

Saturday, the community came together one more time for Mountain Ridge. They were presented medals by Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a presentation at City Hall, then used a police escort to parade south on the Strip. Casinos changed their marquees with words of congratulations.

Here’s a look back at their journey:

    • By the numbers

      1 — Mountain Ridge was the first Nevada team to reach the Little League World Series in more than 70 years of the event’s existence.

      4 — Weeks straight that Mountain Ridge players and coaches were away from home on the road trip of a lifetime. They opened the Western Regional on Aug. 1 in San Bernardino, Calif., and arrived home Aug. 25 from Williamsport. They went directly to the Little League World Series after winning the regional.

      11 — Times Mountain Ridge won by the 10-run mercy rule in 18 games over four tournaments this summer. When one team leads by 10 or more runs after four innings of a six-inning Little League game, umpires call the game under the mercy rule.

      16.3 — Television rating in Las Vegas for the U.S. championship game against Chicago. It was the highest Little League World Series rating on record for ESPN networks in market. Nationally, the game registered a 3.6 overnight rating.

      189 — Runs scored by Mountain Ridge in 18 games this summer over four tournaments. They outscored opponents 189-29 and finished with a 16-2 record.

      34,000 — Number of fans who attended the Mountain Ridge game Aug. 18 against Philadelphia and its girl-pitching sensation Mo’ne Davis.

      0 — Cost for games. It’s free to get into the Little League World Series.

    • More than one good team

      Mountain Ridge wasn’t the only squad from the league to find success this summer.

      All four Mountain Ridge all-star teams won the Nevada state championship, taking the title in the 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14 age divisions.

      The league’s boundaries are: north of the 215 and west of Rainbow Boulevard, west of the 215 and north of Centennial Road and north of Farm Road and west of Decatur Boulevard.

    • AK21

      Mountain Ridge slugger Austin Kryszczuk was labeled the best player in the World Series.

      Aside from Philadelphia star pitcher Mo’ne Davis, the 13-year-old received the most attention.

      ESPN even had a 10-second spot promoting Kryszczuk, referring to him as AK21. During the first game in Williamsport, Kryszczuk hit a ball so hard it dented the outfield wall — hence AK, like the firearm. It’s also fitting for his initials.

      This won’t be the last time you’ll hear about Kryszczuk, who batted 14-for-26 with seven home runs, 19 RBIs and 25 runs scored this summer. He has been compared to Bryce Harper, another Las Vegas product and one of baseball’s best young talents.

    • What was said on Twitter

      Las Vegas resident and tennis great Andre Agassi during U.S. championship game: Serious talent on that #LLWS field today!!! #Vegas #LLWS2014

      Durango High graduate and NASCAR driver Kurt Busch during U.S. championship game: Heading into the garage to get dressed for the race but wanted to wish my Nevada #LLWS team the best of luck. #rallyback

      Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman at the end of the World Series: Great job by Mountain Ridge so proud of this team representing Las Vegas can’t wait to celebrate their accomplishments! #LLWS2014

      Las Vegas native and Washington National Bryce Harper after Aug. 17 win against Jackie Robinson LL: Mountain Ridge LL doin it right now! Let’s go boys!! #LLWS

      Hall of Famer and Las Vegas’ own Greg Maddux during U.S. championship game: Brad stone coming up clutch #nevada #LLWS

      Las Vegas 51s pitcher and Silverado High School grad Chasen Bradford after loss to Jackie Robinson LL in U.S. championship game: So a double elimination tournament but championship is one game so a team that already lost won the #llws that doesn’t make sense.

      ESPN commentator Barry Larkin after Aug. 17 win: LLWS Las Vegas and Holligan brought the heat. Kryszczuk and the offense was on fire. #dominant

      ESPN announcer Karl Ravech after Mountain Ridge beat Philadelphia and pitching sensation Mo’ne Davis: Mountain Ridge very clean game tonight. Terrific team defense, dealt with massive crowd and Mo’ne. Impressive. Coach made smart moves

      Gov. Brian Sandoval during U.S. championship game: And with one swing of the bat Brad Stone puts Nevada in the lead! #LLWS2014 #MountainRidge

      Rep. Steve Horsford after loss to Jackie Robinson in U.S. championship game: Couldn’t have asked for a better #LLWS2014 game. So proud of #MountainRidge, a truly #BattleBorn effort. Hats off to #JackieRobinsonWest!

      Sen. Harry Reid after loss to Jackie Robinson in U.S. championship game: Tough loss but great run by Mountain Ridge. Nevada is so proud of what you’ve accomplished. Good luck in the championship game, Chicago

      Sen. Dean Heller at end of event: Congrats to Mountain Ridge for its 4th place finish in the #LLWS. As Nevada’s first team ever to make it to the #LLWS, you made us all proud

      Texas Rangers top prospect and Bishop Gorman High grad Joey Gallo on Aug. 17: This Vegas little league team is unreal! #LLWS #Dropbombs

      Las Vegas 51s on Aug. 20: Another win for Las Vegas’ own Mountain Ridge LL. Awesome Job!!! Keep it up. The entire 51s team is rooting for you.

      Pittsburgh Pirates announcer Tim Neverett, a former Las Vegas 51s announcer: Congrats to #MountainRidge LL for a great run. Your games were on in our clubhouse and booth every day. Way to represent #LasVegas!

      That One Dude @BlackSheep702 on Aug. 23: #MountainRidge Hope those kids know Vegas hasn’t cheered this hard for a local team of any age in years.

      Steven Slivka @StevenSlivka on Aug. 23: #MountainRidge made everyone here in #vegas proud. Makes me very happy to have them representing the 702.

      KBon @kbonsole on Aug. 24: Thank u #MountainRidge boys, for giving Vegas something to be PROUD OF! It was SO exciting to watch...you made Vegas feel like a community!

    Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

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