For many Little League baseball players, playing live on ESPN is a childhood dream.
For the 11 players on the Collier Township Intermediate Little League team, they got to experience that dream last summer and relive it again this summer.
A year after advancing to the regional semifinals and appearing on ESPN just two games shy of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, the Collier team reached the championship game of the Intermediate 50/70 Little League World Series. That game was broadcast live on ESPN2 last week.
The 50/70 concept was introduced to Pennsylvania this summer for 13 year olds and under. The league expands the 46/60 (46 feet from home plate to pitching rubber, 60 feet between bases) dimensions of little league to 50/70 to help with the eventual transition to the 60/90.
The new dimensions fit the Collier team just fine.
There was only one other local team playing 50/70 this summer, but Collier found plenty of competition in various tournaments and against the other local team, North Allegheny.
The teams played a best-of-three series to see who would advance to the state tournament against three teams from the eastern part of the state. North Allegheny handed Collier its first loss of the summer in game two of the series but Collier would prevail, 2-1.
Things would get much easier for Collier in the state tournament that it would host. It went 4-0 to sweep the double-elimination tournament title. In the regional tournament in Long Island, N.Y., Collier dominated the competition, going 4-0 in pool play and winning a semifinal and final game to qualify for the World Series in Livermore, Calif.
"Everyone thought we were the team to beat," Collier manager Jeff Gordon said of the regional field.
At the double-elimination World Series, Collier dropped its opening game, 6-4, to Post Oak of Texas. The team would fight back to knock off Nogales National (Ariz.), 7-3, Georgetown (Mich.), 4-3, and Pleasanton National (Calif.), 3-1.
The three wins set up a rematch with the Texas team in the United States championship game. Collier would prevail, 5-4, against Post Oak to advance to the championship game against the international champion, Izumisano, Japan.
After playing four scoreless innings, a few fielding errors led to a seven-run inning for Japan and it would go on to win, 10-1.
"It was a long enjoyable ride for them, they had the time of their lives," assistant coach Steven Alauzen said. "They got to play on both ends of the country."
The team comprises seven players from the Chartiers Valley School District, three from Canon-McMillan and one from Upper St. Clair. The majority have played together since they were 9 years old. Gordon began managing the team that summer.
"It was a great run," Gordon said. "This was basically the same group of kids from last year. To play on ESPN two years in a row is kind of unheard of."
Ian Hess, Zach Rohaley and Nick Serafino are from the Canon-McMillan School District, Hunter Gordon, Reed Bruggeman, Caysen O'Keefe, Steven Alauzen, Konnor Corchado, Zack Pilossoph and David Yurchak are from Chartiers Valley and Dom Cepullio is from Upper St. Clair.
Gordon was assisted by Steven Alauzen and Jack Hess.
Rohaley, Cepullio, Ian Hess and Serafino were the top pitchers on the team while Alauzen led the team in batting average.
While other teams, especially those from western states, have been playing 50/70 for multiple seasons, this was the first season it was sanctioned by Little League in Pennsylvania.
"It was the first year of 50/70. No one knew what to expect, especially around here," Jeff Gordon said.
"A lot of kids can play multiple positions and that is why I think we got so far."