Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018 | 2 a.m.
How did Nevada’s state champion Little League team celebrate its title in Carson City? By playing a celebratory game of whiffle ball in the parking lot of its hotel.
Silverado Little League’s all-star team, composed of 11- and 12-year-olds residing in the southwest Valley, can reach the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., by winning the Western Regional, which runs Aug. 5-11 in San Bernardino, California.
Silverado’s coaches say they can’t get the kids to stop playing baseball, even on nights between tournament games. The team says that love for the game could be the difference in reaching Williamsport.
“We all have fun, and we’re all energetic,” says Broc Snider, 12, who plays outfield, catcher and second base. “We’re all friends, so everyone talks to each other and has a lot of fun. It’s a lot easier [when] you get along with everyone.”
Silverado has steamrolled its competition to this point, going 6-0 in district play and 3-0 in the state tournament. The team outscored its opposition 139-11 and hit 27 home runs.
“It’s a great group of kids,” coach Frank Apeceche says. “We were very excited about the group from the beginning. I knew we were going to be good, but I never thought we’d be this good.”
Pitcher Koa Young has thrown 11 postseason innings with a 0.59 earned run average, and Apeceche’s son, Connor, has been brilliant behind the plate catching. Jack Buening has a .714 batting average and seven home runs to lead a lineup with a combined .571 batting average and 47 extra-base hits.
Silverado’s team was put together in mid-June and gelled immediately, easily advancing through the district tournament with six blowout wins: 20-0, 15-0, 13-0, 22-1, 24-0 and 11-0. That propelled the team to the state tournament in Carson City, where it faced Mountain Ridge.
Mountain Ridge is the only Nevada team to have qualified for the Little League World Series since the tournament morphed into its existing bracket system in 1976, reaching the 2014 U.S. championship game and eventually being awarded the U.S. title after a disqualification by its opponent.
Silverado beat Mountain Ridge, 8-5, last month then faced the same squad again in the championship game, where Silverado rolled 11-1. “We use that [2014 run by Mountain Ridge] as a motivator,” Apeceche says. “Let’s show what Nevada has. That team did it; why can’t we?”
Silverado will get its shot at regionals, where it will battle five teams—from Southern California, Northern California, Hawaii, Arizona and Utah—for one World Series spot. Those games will be broadcast online by ESPN. If Silverado makes the World Series, the team will be broadcast on ESPN television.
“These kids watch it on TV every year, and that is one of their dreams,” Apeceche says. “Obviously, making it to regionals alone is a big deal, too.”
Silverado’s players say they’ve enjoyed the experience to this point, from the seven-hour drive in a 15-person van to Carson City, to the sleepovers at the hotel. “They’ve had a blast,” Apeceche says. “My favorite part was on championship day. They were playing music, and all the kids were dancing on the field. Driving up to state in a van was [also] something I won’t forget. I had to stop every two hours, because you know how [kids are]—so full of energy you can’t keep them calm.”
Watching them throw 70 mph fastballs and belt 250-foot home runs, it can be easy to forget they’re just 12 years old, but off the diamond, they act their age. “Staying in the hotels is so much fun,” Broc says. “We have pillow fights, fart in the rooms, stink up the vans, it’s awesome.”
One of the most difficult aspects of coaching can be molding kids into a team, but Apeceche says that’s been easy.
“That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve noticed—they all get along,” he says. “It’s hard to put a team together in a few weeks, and they’re very coachable. None of these kids have an ego that feel they deserve to play a spot. They realize this is an opportunity to go far as a team.”
This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.