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Newport marches to finals

Local All-Stars’ fifth straight win gives them a chance for the championship against undefeated Laguna Hills.

July 11, 2009|By BY TONY LEE

CORONA DEL MAR — Some baseball players struggle when they have two strikes on them and some thrive in that situation. The 11- to 12-year-old Newport Beach Little League All-Stars appear to be the latter.

After losing the first game of the District 55 Tournament and put into a win-or-go-home situation, Newport Beach has won five straight games in six days, the latest being an 8-5 semifinal victory against Aliso Viejo Saturday at Lincoln Elementary. The Newport Beach All-Stars won the second-chance bracket and made it to the finals to face Laguna Hills, again.

“I’m telling them we want revenge,” Newport Beach Manager Duane Hastings said to his players about the tournament’s finals starting Monday at 6 p.m. at Lincoln Elementary. “They came into our house and took it to us in that first game. The crowd’s backing us and we’re a different team now.”

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Hastings added this is the only time any Newport Beach All-Star team has won five in a row in the loser’s bracket. The must win Monday to force a winner-take-all championship Tuesday.

No Newport Beach All-Stars team has won in this age division, Hastings said, and the last time a Newport team reached the finals was in 2002 when it lost twice at the end of the tournament.

This year, since the 11-2 loss to Laguna Hills on July 11, Hastings’ squad, led by Parker Reposa’s six home runs, has showcased a hitting clinic at Lincoln Elementary by scoring an impressive 53 runs.

But Newport Beach isn’t just a long-ball team.

The team displayed its versatility against Aliso Viejo by playing small-ball, a baseball strategy that values smart base running, singles and bunts.

“They had their third baseman playing back and what I thought were obvious bunt situations so we just took advantage of it,” Hastings said. “Logan Miller put down an excellent bunt to load the bases and Jake [Hastings] had a nice drag bunt.”

But Newport Beach almost didn’t have the opportunity to show its versatility to Aliso Viejo until Monday. Aliso Viejo nearly reached Monday undefeated in the tourney.

In the winner’s bracket semifinal game on Friday, Aliso Viejo saw it’s four-run lead disappear in the last inning off of a Laguna Hills grand slam and also lost the game in extra innings.

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