Orchard Mesa two wins from dream of Little League World Series

Andrew Martinez, 12, and the Orchard Mesa Major boys Little League team fell short of their goal of reaching the Little League World Series.

Having a Grand Junction team qualify for the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., has always been something of a fantasy for local Little League supporters.

The Orchard Mesa Little League Major boys are two wins from making that fantasy a reality.

Orchard Mesa plays in the semifinals of the Southwestern Regional in Waco, Texas, at 4 this afternoon against Pearland (Texas) White Little League.

The game will be televised on ESPN2 (Ch. 34 on Bresnan Cable).

“We got here and wanted to win a game to prove that we could play with these guys,” Orchard Mesa manager Pete Steves said. “Now we’ve won two and are in the semifinals.”

Getting to this point is quite an accomplishment for Orchard Mesa, which has played every game during the Little League playoffs on the road.

In 2001, the Little League World Series expanded from eight to 16 teams, and reorganized the qualifying regions.

Colorado went from the Western Regional to the Southwestern Regional.

The move didn’t equal a lot of success.

Heading into this year’s tournament, Colorado state representatives have gone a combined 2-23 at the Major boys Southwestern Regional in Texas.

Orchard Mesa’s performance this year is the best since Academy Little League lost in the semifinals in 2003.

“These are all quality teams,” Steves said. “No matter what happens, we have nothing to hang our heads about. Our guys have already accomplished a lot.”

Orchard Mesa’s key to getting to the semifinals was playing well out of the gate. Orchard Mesa defeated Tulsa, Okla., 11-2 in the first game of the tournament. On Saturday, Orchard Mesa defeated Albuquerque, N.M., 6-3. Orchard Mesa lost its final game of pool play 11-1 to Arkadelphia, Ark.

Orchard Mesa had Monday off while the other teams finished pool play. Steves said the team used the day to practice, but also get some rest.

“We practiced them hard because we made some errors (Sunday),” Steves said. “But we also made sure to take it easy and have some fun because we had almost two days off.”

Orchard Mesa has a big challenge in today’s game against Pearland. The Texas East representative didn’t lose in pool play, winning its three games by a combined score of 32-9.

“They are really good players,” Steves said. “From what I can tell they are a really athletic team and can run well.”

Orchard Mesa will start Trey Garcia, and has every pitcher available except Andrew Martinez.

Although Martinez isn’t available on the mound, he’ll be called upon to stay consistent offensively. Martinez leads Orchard Mesa with a .571 batting average during the Southwestern Regional. Garcia is hitting .500 and Christian Chavez .400 in the regional tournament.

Arkansas plays the winner of Texas West and Louisiana in today’s first semifinal game at 1 p.m.

The winners of the semifinal games play at 5 p.m. on Thursday for the championship, also televised on ESPN2. The regional final four is single elimination.

The winner of the Southwestern Regional advances to the Little League World Series fro Aug. 21-29 in Williamsport, Pa.

“We’ve gotten a lot of calls from people wishing us luck,” Steves said. “We are just trying to make them proud.”


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