Now, the local boys will make the over 500-mile trek east to Southwest Utah for the Western Regional tournament in Panguitch, Utah where they will take on a 16-team field in hopes of being named best of the West.
It might seem like an eternity since Spanish Springs rallied through the losers' bracket of the state tournament to win Nevada's crown in Fallon nearly three weeks ago. Coach Todd Galati has kept his team game ready with inter-squad scrimmages, but he also knows this has been a long season already for 9-year-olds. Most have been playing baseball since March. In the team's last practice Friday night, the kids played against their parents as something fun.
"They're playing well. They did not want to practice these last two days. They're ready to play some games," Galati said.
Spanish Springs has already hit a speed bump before leaving Sparks. On Tuesday, Brian Anderson, the team's No. 1 pitcher and cleanup hitter went down with a broken thumb. Anderson hit .770 during the state tournament.
"I've got 12 pretty good little ballplayers, and they're ready to step up," Galati said.
The Western Regional is broken up into four pools of four teams. Spanish Springs will play a team from Arizona at 3 p.m. Tuesday, Utah on Wednesday and Hawaii on Thursday. If Spanish Springs finishes first or second in the pool, it will advance to the eight-team double-elimination bracket for a chance to become regional champs. Teams representing California and Guam will also participate in the tourney.
But that's where the road would end. Unlike the Spanish Springs 12-year-old All-Stars who could have moved on to the Cal Ripken World Series in Maryland, there is no World Series for the 9-year-olds. The Cal Ripken World Series (Aug. 8-16) takes 10 U.S. teams and six international teams from Canada, Mexico, Japan, Australia, Republic of Korea and the Dominican Republic to see who is the top Cal Ripken team in the world.
That doesn't take away from the excitement of reaching the regional tournament, which for kids this young, is the first big time tournament they will experience.
"I think my kids are pretty mellow," Galati said. "They're just excited to go down there for the experience. We had a goal of winning the state tournament. We've done that, so everything else is pretty much gravy for them. They're just 9-year-old kids who want to go out and have fun."