By Max Rothschild

The Del Rey American Little League 10- and 11-year-old All-Stars are heading into sectional tournament play this weekend after clinching their first district championship in three years on July 4.

The 5-3 win over Hollypark was a nail-biter of a game that forced the Del Rey All-Stars into high gear to scrape out the victory.

Del Rey began the district tournament with relative ease, winning their first two games (against Lennox and Wiseburn); however, they almost lost their next game against Hollypark, as they fought to hold on to a 7-5 lead after a late surge by their opponents.

They would go on to face Hollypark again, losing their second game 6-4 on July 3 in an extra-inning game lasting eight innings. As a result of the loss, the teams played a tiebreaking championship game the next day.

Del Rey coach Anthony Valerno spoke highly of his team’s performance in the championship game.

“John Victor and James Politz hit back-to-back homeruns to give us a three-run lead, but Hollypark came back. Luke Elwards pitched really well against them, and we were able to score a few more runs and make some plays to grab the win and move on to sectionals. Our centerfielder Max Dearing made a great catch for the final out; he’s made a lot of plays for us out there this year.”

The district championship win is made all the more impressive considering the competitive dominance of the neighboring Westchester Little League, which won a number of other age groups.

Westchester consistently finds success in tournament play, but they could not find a way to win the 10 and 11 age group, losing to the Hollypark team Del Rey eventually defeated.

Valerno said the Del Rey players and supporters are ecstatic about being district champions.

“The last time we won was in 2013. This is kind of a big thing for us that other leagues — like Westchester, for instance — get to experience more often.”

Del Rey’s next game is on Saturday, July 16, at Riviera Field in Torrance. Click here for more information.