BELMONT -- The Peninsula's best Little League Baseball team in nearly half-a-century will be honored at a community celebration Sunday, five weeks after falling agonizingly short of a trip to the Little League World Series.

The Belmont-Redwood Shores Little League All-Stars made history this summer when they mowed through the competition in Bay Area and Northern California tournaments before losing in the Western Regional final Aug. 10 to Chula Vista. They were the first San Mateo County team to win the Northern California title, Little League officials say, since Ravenswood from East Palo Alto in 1967.

The team's enchanted run to the deciding game of the western tournament in San Bernardino is still sinking in for coach Rudy Lopez, whose son Nicolas was one of the squad's star players. Other standouts on the talented team included pitcher Sean Lee and hitters Noah Marcelo, Brad Shimabuku and Dominic Susa.

"It was amazing, exhausting and I still can't believe it happened," said Lopez, 45.

Belmont-Redwood Shores went 5-1 in San Bernardino, defeating teams from Arizona, Hawaii and Utah. They beat Chula Vista too, but the Southern California champion avenged itself in the final behind dominating starting pitcher Grant Holman. The 6-foot 4-inch prodigy wound up leading Chula Vista all the way to the Little League World Series championship, where the San Diego County team lost Aug. 25 to Japan.


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"In reality I thought we were probably among the top two or three teams in the country," said Lopez, noting that the Western Region is considered the nation's toughest. "There's only two teams in the world that beat Chula Vista, that's Japan and us, and our boys should be very proud of that."

The Belmont-Redwood Shores team has been playing together for five years, but the kids bonded even tighter last month while living in dorms known as "the barracks" during the weeklong regional tournament. Most players said that was their favorite part of the experience, even better than hitting and fielding in front of more than 20,000 spectators and a national television audience.

Jake Stulbarg, an outfielder and designated hitter, said losing in the final was tough, but he was proud just to have played on the immaculate field of Al Houghton Stadium in San Bernardino.

"It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," said Jake, 13, "and I'm just happy that I was one of the people who got to experience it."

Belmont-Redwood Shores is part of District 52, which consists of 14 Little Leagues from Pacifica to Palo Alto. Doug Rebert, the district's administrator, said the thing he cherishes the most from San Bernardino is how the kids handled themselves. He said the team's liaison at the tournament, who helped the coaches and players with daily needs, paid Belmont-Redwood Shores a high compliment.

"He told me," Rebert recalled, "'This was the nicest group of kids, coaches and families I've been around in 18 years of doing this.'"

The team will be honored from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday at the Belmont Sports Complex. For more information visit www.brsll.org.

Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.