Danville HOOTS coach Don Johns sounded like he was living the dream at the Connie Mack World Series in Farmington, N.M.
Johns, in his final season as HOOTS coach, saw his young squad, composed primarily of East Bay Athletic League talent, wallop Strike Zone (N.M.) 16-2 in the loser's bracket on Aug. 3 at a packed Ricketts Field.
Danville had six players with at least two hits: Nick Moroney, Chris Williams, Matt Winaker, Ryan Anderson, Austin Piscotty, and Bradley Pluschkell. Tim Susnara tossed a three-hitter with 12 strikeouts.
The big victory came after Danville lost 7-5 to D-Bats Gallegos (Texas) to open the eight-team, double-elimination event, celebrating its 50th anniversary. "It was great," Johns said of the HOOTs' first-ever win at the event. "I'm proud of the way the guys bounced back in front of a hometown crowd. There were probably 15,000 at the game, standing-room only, and our guys did a great job. We jumped on them early and made them quiet."
Danville was rewarded with a bye in the next round, and needed one more win to advance into the champion-round bracket. The tournament wraps up on Aug. 8. For updated results, visit http://cmws.org.
In the tight battle against D-Bats Gallegos, Danville's Steve Nice had two hits and two RBIs, and Anderson and Piscotty each had two hits and a run scored. The young HOOTs have just six 2014 high school graduates on a 22-man roster, so they are well-fortified for the future.
"It's got to be one of the youngest teams here," Johns said, noting his team has been seasoned through a tough summer schedule and hard work. The HOOTs won Northern California State and West Region championships to get this far.
Johns plans to remain with the program after selecting his successor as head coach. He has brought some strong teams to the World Series, but victories had eluded them in four one-run games.
"Finally. Off my back," Johns told the Daily Times after the Strike Zone game. "When you coach as long as I've had, and you know you've been successful and run a successful program and have a lot of victories, but you come here and can't win, sometimes you start to think, 'I'm not very good at this.' But we've had some success, and I'm really happy and really proud of our guys."
After Danville won the 2014 Western Regional title in Southern California, Johns said his squad "will go down as one of the great teams in 23 years of existence of the HOOTS program. ... That is a huge statement to who they are and how they will be remembered.
Former Major League Baseball stars Ken Griffey Jr. and Barry Larkin were among five players inducted into the CMWS Hall of Fame in Farmington. The memorable event kicks off with a parade through town, and visiting players are housed by the local teams.
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