It’s deep into the Little League All-Star season, and as some teams falter, others continue to make the run to glory.
In this moment, the only thing Andre Williams feels is relief.
Standing amongst his Dr. Phillips Little League All-Star team (10-12s), they pose for a quick photo with their District 14 championship banner following a 6-1 win over Winter Garden at George Bailey Park Friday, July 2.
The championship game was the fifth in 14 days for DPLL, thanks in large part to afternoon storms and showers that led to a whopping 10 rainouts throughout district play. In fact, Friday night’s game originally was supposed to take place the night before, but due to weather had to be pushed back. There’s nothing you can do about the weather, Williams said, so you have to do what you can to keep the kids loose.
“When you get a chance to practice, you get it in — you make sure you get to the cages a little earlier, and you make sure you get the hitting,” Williams said. “You just try to do what you can. But, you know, the resilience of coming back every day and having the same attitude is what it’s all about.”
After beating Windermere in the lead-up game, DPLL knew it had to come out swinging against a strong Winter Garden side. However, DPLL found itself down 1-0 early before a five-run third inning helped catapult DP to the district title and a berth into sectional play.
Along with the Majors team, DPLL also has seen success from other teams in the league with the Juniors All-Stars and 9-11s (Minors) both laying claim to District 14 titles.
The Juniors team snuck past Windermere’s Juniors 8-6 in a big win, while the Minors team had an absolute barn burner against Winter Garden. After being up 8-2 in the fifth, Winter Garden rallied to even it up at 8-8 before DP exploded for four runs in the top of the seventh to snag the 12-8 win in extras back on June 18 — thanks in part to a big 5-for-5 outing at the plate for leadoff man Cam Johansson.
Two weeks later, the Minors team would absolutely thrash South Orange and Lake Wales by 19-0 and 18-0, respectively, to win the Section 5 title.
“Max Kunz threw a no-hitter in the first game, and I think Kobi Nethercutt gave up two hits in the second game,” Minors head coach Bryan Granatstein said. “The kids really stepped up and played good defense, and obviously we hit the ball to score that many runs.”
With the win, Granatstein’s team will head to DeFuniak Springs to take on Florida’s best in the state championships.
WLL SOFTBALL DOMINATES
Three teams out of the league are moving on to the next rounds of play after claiming district and sectional titles.
On the boys side, the Seniors baseball team — also referred to as “Wintermere,” as the team is made up of players from Windermere, Winter Garden and DP — took home a thrilling 12-11 win in the district championship to advance to sectionals.
Meanwhile, on the softball side of things, both the 8- to 10-year old team and Majors (10-12) found success out on the field. The younger team blanked Apopka 11-0 to win the District 14 title before going on to win sectionals to advance to states.
In the Majors division, there was no district tournament held, as other leagues in the district didn’t have enough players to place into the age group, said WLL Majors coach Steve Margelos. Instead, the team went straight to sectionals where they just lit up St. Cloud.
“The first game … we won 22-1, and it was just like, I think we were almost as shocked as they were — everything that could go wrong for them went wrong,” Margelos said. “And the girl pitching for us — Lauren Harper — she threw a no-hitter, and it was great. Then, the second game, St. Cloud played the way they should play, and we won 5-0.”
Now, the Majors team is readying for the state championships this weekend against Florida’s best. But for Margelos — especially after having no season last year — everything from here on out is just a cherry on top of a fun season.
“I think — at the end of the day — ‘Whatever happens at states is just bonus,’ (that) is what I kind of tell the girls,” Margelos said. “You don’t get to go to states every year.”
WGLL HAS SEASON COME TO A CLOSE
The Winter Garden Little League All-Star season came to a close with the Majors team’s 6-1 loss to Dr. Phillips last Friday, but it wasn’t without impressive outings.
The league saw all four of its All-Star teams make it to their respective district championship games, with the 9s winning big in a 16-4 victory over Dr. Phillips Little League to claim the TOC Championships Thursday, June 10, and the 10s defeating Windermere 11-3 to claim the District 14 title.
That 10s team went 5-0 through district play and reeled off wins against Oviedo and Plant City in sectionals to move to 7-0 before having their season end in a tough 5-4 loss in extra innings to St. Cloud to fall a game short of making it to states.
Despite the season being over, the successes of the season — especially with the cancelation of last year due to COVID-19 — made this year that much more special, said league president and 11s coach Josh Steele.
“Numerous people came up during conversation talking about just about how excited they were to be playing and how great it was for their kids to be out there, because basically they lost a year of Little League,” Steele said. “I think it definitely made it more special to come back from it and field some really good teams from top to bottom.”
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