A Little League version of the Big League rivalry played out in the Major Division Championship at Westside Little League in Santa Clara this season. After dropping the first game of the playoffs, the Giants rallied all the way back to defeat the Dodgers twice in the Championship to advance to the Tournament of Champions (TOC).
“We ended up losing Game 1 to the last seed, and then came back and knocked everybody out,” commented Giants Head Coach Jeff Hauck. “We ended up beating them twice in the championship, the double-elimination championship.”
The Giants are a brand new team this year, as are all the Westside teams. In recent years the league has elected to redraft their teams every season. No players are carried over from the year prior. Furthermore, added to the mix this year were players from Homestead Little League as the two leagues merged together due to Homestead’s low turnout of signups. With all the changes, this year’s Giants managed to find a formula for success.
“We’re a mixture of everything, to tell you the truth,” added Hauck when asked to describe his squad. “The last few games, four or five games, double-digit hitting, 16 or 17 hits per game. A lot of leadership on the team and it carried through.”
“We have very powerful hitters that can hit the ball hard and get some runs in early,” commented No. 2 hitter and first baseman Logan Vieira. “We have a pretty good defense, pretty good pitchers and catchers.”
Vieira is one of four total 12-year-old players on the Giants, three of whom played at Westside last year, while the fourth joined this year from Homestead. Having played previously at Lincoln Glen Little League, Vieira brings three years of TOC experience dating back to his minor years. Last season was Vieria’s first at Westside, playing for the Dodgers. He and his teammates are excited about leading the Giants into the TOC.
“I feel pretty good because our team has been hitting the ball and playing great defense,” chimed three hitter and utility infielder Kailan Chao. “We lost our first game of the playoffs and then we beat all the other teams to get to TOC.”
“Hitting is our strength, and we pitch well too,” added leadoff man Jayce Dobie. “I play every position, but my favorites are catcher, shortstop and pitching.”
The Giants players seem to really appreciate their coach, who allows them to play different positions and to learn by experience rather than just be told how to play.
“[Coach Jeff] just lets me have a lot of freedom,” remarked Dobie. “When I’m catching, he lets me call my own pitches.”
Just like rival Briarwood, Westside earned a luck of the draw first round bye for TOC. The Giants will start their tournament on Thursday at Moreland Little League against the team from Sunnyvale Serra. A victory would potentially put them in the semifinal game against the Briarwood Pirates if the Pirates also win on Thursday.