Claremont Little League advances three teams to state tournament
All three Claremont Little League All-Star Teams won crucial playoff games on Tuesday, advancing to the state championships for the first time in league history.
The 10-year-olds defeated West Covina National, 13-3; the juniors beat Ontario Mountain View, 10-0; and the 12-year-olds beat the West Covina American All-Stars, 8-3, in a critical playoff match at College Park.
Claremont 12-year-olds started off hot with a triple that would bring in two runs in the first inning.
Then the drama really came to a head in the third, when Claremont walked three runners, loading the bases. A pitching change did not help and West Covina went on to score three runs.
Claremont then answered with a home run from Brady Bickham in the bottom of the inning to tie things up 3-3.
The fourth inning ended quickly for West Covina, but during Claremont’s at bat, several singles and doubles resulted in another run scored.
However, in the fifth inning, play went south for West Covina, as they made one error after the another, giving Claremont four additional runs.
With only one inning left, West Covina was out of gas and out of time, resulting in a 8-3 victory for Claremont. With this win, Claremont’s All-Stars now head to the state tournament in Fountain Valley on Sunday.
In 2019 Claremont Little League had just finished the most successful All Star Season ever with three division titles, two section titles and the 10-year-olds as the runners up in the State tournament.
However, last March the season went into what they called a “rain delay” for the spring season.
“We had every hope in our heart to re-open our program in 2020 for the 500 plus kids in our community that had worked so hard for a spring season,” Claremont Little League president Jenny Ballesteros said. “Due to COVID, we were forced to place the picnic benches on the warning track, lock our fields and collect the keys…kids like my son lost their final year of Little League…For the first time in CLL history we were a board without baseball.”
In August the teams got permission to offer skill-based practice, so for the first time in 61 years they offered a baseball program without games, that required everyone to wear masks, with no shared equipment, and 30 minutes between practice to allow plenty of time for teams to come and go without mixing.
One father told Ms. Ballesteros, “Jenny, thank you for bringing back baseball to our kids. I thought our son needed it, but after being on the field realized how much I needed this for my mental health.”
“I knew we had done the right thing. We took an impossible situation and gave our kids in OUR community a bit of hope. Not one COVID issue, we ran the program all the way through December,” Ms. Ballesteros said.
In January they started the spring season the same way as their fall ball program for almost 400 kids. By February they had permission to put on masks, close the dugouts and bleachers and play baseball.
“Thankfully we had run a draft and ordered uniforms in hope for a safe way to play games. Our first games in 2021 were on March 20th. Fifty-three weeks after our last game played at College Park,” Ms. Ballesteros said. “We were the first league in our district back on the field to full capacity. The only league to offer a fall program, the only community that fought for our kids.”
“This post season has been crazy amazing. All six of our All-Star teams played in championship games. Our 8U and 11U teams received 2nd place in District, our 9s won the district title. Our 10s, 12s and Juniors won district and progressed to the section tournaments,” Claremont Little League president Jenny Ballesteros said. “We are one city, one team…and I could not be prouder to lead this organization this year.”