It had been a long time coming for fans of White Pine Little League, but after 10 years of winless District 3 tournament appearances, the 11-12 year old all-star team scored two come-from-behind victories to make it to the quarterfinals before being eliminated.
After a close 8-6 loss in their first game on July 2 against Walker River, coach Nick Lopez said he was worried about losing two straight and being eliminated on his home field.
Before the team’s elimination game against Hawthorne on July 3, Lopez said he was having trouble fighting off the nerves.
“I don’t know who is more nervous, the kids or me,” he said during the pregame warm-ups.
Those nerves would eventually translate to the entire home cheering section, as the White Pine All-Stars faced a 5-2 deficit before finding their bats late in the last inning, winning 6-5.
On the Fourth of July, White Pine found themselves in a similar situation against Elko. Down 12-5 heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, Lopez knew his team was on the verge of mentally giving up.
“You could see it, the kids were down,” the coach said. “We as coaches were doing everything in our power to keep their spirits up, but as a coach, you can talk to these kids until your face turns blue. That’s where the crowd really helped us out.”
The standing-room-only cheering section from White Pine started a chant usually more associated with the World Cup than Little League.
“I! I believe! I believe that we will win!” parents and sibling of the players chanted as loudly as they could.
White Pine went on to score eight runs in the fifth inning to take the lead 13-12 and finished strong to hold on for a 14-13 win over Elko. Caleb Britton’s mother Becky joked she “almost had a heart-attack” during the Elko game.
“They are a great group of boys. They played hard and played with a lot of heart. They never gave up,” Britton said.
White Pine was eliminated on July 5 in a 13-3 loss to Ruby Mountain. Lopez said that loss came from the team taking to long to get their hitting going and running out of starting pitchers. Even with the loss, Lopez said he was proud of his team and the way they played.
“I couldn’t even pick out one player that made a difference because it took all of them. It was a real team effort to pull through and win those games the way they did,” the coach said.
Walker River, out of Yerington, won the tournament on Monday 3-0 over High Desert from Fernley to advance onto the statewide tournament.
The annual District 3 Little League tournament was held in Ely for the first time since 2000. The amount of players and families the tournament brought in filled hotel and motel rooms for most of the week. Tournament Director Wayne Cameron, who also works at the White Pine Chamber of Commerce, said overall the tournament went off without a hitch and provided a boon to the local economy.
“It went really smoothly. There were a lot of great, close games. Only two out of all of them turned into blowouts. It was great for the community,” Cameron said.