BY GARY WALKER
2011 was a banner year for Westchester softball.
The Westchester-Del Rey Little League sent two teams to the World Series and although they did not bring home championship banners, one parent feels the experiences will last the players for a lifetime.
“It was incredible to hear from the parents and kids their experiences, and especially all the fantastic free equipment that they were given for participating in the World Series,” said Mylah Wessels, whose daughter Kira played on the Juniors All-star team. “Of course, it was the thrill of playing teams from far and away in such an incredible field as well.”
Never before has Westchester had two teams compete for the top prize, according to officials at the Westchester-Del Rey Little League.
The Majors (11-12 year olds) wound up 1-3 and finished seventh overall. They found themselves in a tough division, squaring off against the eventual championship runner-ups from Texas and losing a heartbreaker, 5-4.
Manager Mike Dolan expressed pride in his girls as they were on the road for nearly a month during the tournament. “It was an amazing run,” he said. “Just to get there was an honor and very inspirational.”
The Westchester Majors also played eventual champion Central (Ill.) and Dolan takes pride in the fact that Westchester was the first team to score on Central’s pitcher in 20-plus innings.
The win that sent them to the World Series in Portland, Ore. was an 8-3 victory over Gilroy of Northern California. Pitcher Alexis Cecere scattered eight hits in the victory and Chandler Dolan went three for three with a run batted in. She also scored a run.
It was also the first time that a team in the Majors Little League Division went as far as this year’s team did since 1974.
The Big Leaguer team finished 4-5 in the nine games they played. “What we discovered about all the other teams except for our West team is that they were the youngest team playing at this level,” Wessels noted.
Controversy surrounded the Juniors All-Star team. Many of the Westchester-Del Rey League parents, coaches and officials came home disappointed regarding what they believe were a series of calls that went against them and turned the tide of the youngsters season.
According to Wessels and others, umpires in Victorville unfairly ejected two of the Juniors coaches for disputing calls, one with respect to where a coach may stand inside a coaching box.
Several letters of protest were sent to the league offices following the Victorville game, which Westchester lost.
Tim Chrysler, an umpire in Little League District 37 and a former coach, wrote a letter imploring Little League officials to take action. “As an official in high school and Little League, we are trained to do our best, be approachable and follow the rules and guide lines of our programs. I myself have always aspired to be a role model, mentor, and leader,” Chrysler wrote. “The way these officials acted is not becoming of Little League or any other sport, for that matter.”
Tizoc Campos, the Juniors manager, said his young team learned an important life lesson, despite the feeling of losing a playoff game. “They tried as hard as they can, and they hustled and battled back,” said Campos, who was also ejected from the Victorville game. “This was a good experience for them to learn about adversity, and they had a really good time getting this close.”
Campos said Little League West Region President Jim Gerstenlager had not responded to his emails. Calls to the South Williamsport, Penn. headquarters were not returned.
Although the Juniors loss was difficult, the success of the Major and the Big Leaguer teams made the season an enjoyable one.
“Having two teams in the World Series from Westchester has never happened before,” said Dolan, who is in his 17th year of coaching. “It really was an amazing run.”
Wessels, who has been a board member with the Westchester-Del Rey league for many years as well as a member of the Kentwood Elementary and Orville Wright Middle School governance councils, said the Westchester girls had a lot to be proud of with their respective seasons.
“We could not be more proud of all of these girls,” she said. “All in all, the teams that went to the World Series had wonderful and life-changing experiences.”