SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - The goal is Williamsport, Pa., and the Little League World Series. But the topic is forbidden with the Chandler National Little League players.
“They have questions about Williamsport,’’ coach Jeff Parrish said. “We tell them they haven’t earned the right to talk about Williamsport yet.”
They will have to earn it at 6 p.m. today when they face Solana Beach, the Southern California champion, for the West Regional Little League championship. The game will be shown nationally on ESPN.
“This is their World Series,’’ said assistant coach Clay Bellinger, who played in the World Series with the New York Yankees and in the 2004 Olympics.
The new intensity of the media spotlight presents a challenge for the players and coaches. Parrish had to meet with TV producers Friday morning to go over some etiquette. Later in the day, there were taping sessions.
Kyle Pechloff, the winning pitcher in Chandler National’s 8-1 semifinal victory over Hawaii, sounded like a veteran of televised games Thursday night.
“You have to focus on the game,’’ he said. “The coaches told us to think of the cameras as fans. Just tune everything out.”
Parrish said the coaching staff has tried to stress keeping emotions in check, but he knows it is hard.
“We tell them, 'Not every play is going to go your way,’ ’’ he said. “ 'Not every call is going to go your way.’
“These are still 12- and 13-year-old boys,’’ he said. “They are not around their parents. So you sometimes have to remind them how to be gracious.”
Parrish said he hadn’t decided who will be his starting pitcher. It will either be Skyler Palermo or Seth Fretheim.
“They’re both well rested,’’ he said.
In the Southern California champion, Chandler National will face a talented team that has demonstrated resilience.
Solana Beach, from the town north of San Diego, has played 14 games in which one more loss would have eliminated it.
To get to the West Regional, Solana Beach had to beat Claremont two games in a row after losing the first game. Solana Beach faced a similar situation against Tijeras Creek at the previous level.
In Thursday night’s semifinal, Jackson Balla hit a two-run homer in a three-run third inning for Solana Beach. Nevada champion Green Valley came back in the sixth and appeared to tie the game. But Jacob Morris was called out at first because he made a head-first slide, a violation of Little League rules.
Though Chandler has won its first five games of regional play, Parrish expects a challenge in the final. The Southern California champion is the only team Chandler National hasn’t played yet.
“As you progress, the teams get tougher,’’ Parrish said. “We haven’t scored 25 runs on anyone here.”
Chandler National sent a team to the Little League World Series in 2003.
Some of those players met with this year’s players before the team left for California.
“They told us what to expect,’’ infielder Dalton Krum said.
SHORT HOP: Barro’s Pizza in Chandler will hold a viewing party tonight for fans, league officials, coaches and players. Barro’s is located at 1880 S. Alma School Road, on the northwest corner of Alma School and Germann roads.
Little League West Regional championship
Who: Chandler National vs. Solana Beach (Calif.)
When: 6 p.m. today
Where: San Bernardino, Calif.