When the Little League regular season ended and the Tassajara Valley 12-year-old all star team started practicing, there was a feeling amongst the parents and players that this summer the team could do something special.
"I thought during our two-a-day practices we were good enough to win it all," first-baseman Jack Maloon said. "We were always staying positive."
And while the positivity certainly didn't hurt, manager Jorge Garratt knew it'd take a whole lot more than that for the team to capture the District 57 banner.
After cruising through the winner's bracket Tassajara waited the arrival of , which, after falling to Pleasanton National, fought its way back through the loser's bracket to reach the District 57 title game for the third-straight year.
As 11-year-olds, Tassajara finished third in District 57 play, which included a to Danville.
"As nines (Danville) 10-runned this team, as 10s (Danville) 10-runned this team," Garratt said. "Last year it was 2-0, but then we beat them in a travel ball tournament (before the all star season started this year). That was a big confidence builder."
In Friday's championship at , Danvile built a 4-1 lead through three innings and looked poised to force a deciding game with ace Darroch Koel on the mound. But after Danville put up three runs in the third, Tassajara responded with two runs in the fourth. Maloon led the inning off with a single, Erik Frommenhoek followed with a double and later stole home on a first-and-third play.
After Danville was silenced in the fourth, Nate Landman drew a leadoff walk in the fifth. Jack Fryer then gave Danville the lead for good at 5-4 with a towering one-out home run.
"Even when (Danville was) up I wasn't worried," Garratt said. "This is how the team has played all year."
The exclamation point came in the sixth when Maloon, who looks more suited for high school baseball than Little League, launched a grand slam to put Tassajara up 9-4, the eventual final score.
"I went up there trying to hit a home run," he said. "Now we want to go to Williamsport."
To get to Willamsport, Penn., where the Little League World Series is hosted and televised by ESPN, Tassajara still has a long road to travel.
It'll begin on July 17 in the Section 3 tournament, which is followed by the divisional round and the regionals before Williamsport becomes a reality.