SAN BERNARDINO, Calif., - There is a touch of swagger to Chandler National Little League pitcher Cory Bernard.
Fueled by youthful optimism and confidence, he seems to say to batters, ‘‘I’m gonna throw it as hard as I can over the plate and whaddya gonna do about it?’’
That’s what Bernard did for six innings in Chandler’s 2-0 West Regional title-game victory against Southern California champion Vineyard Little League of Rancho Cucamonga on Tuesday night. The victory before a packed house and a national TV audience ensured a trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., for the gutsy band of players from Chandler.
Chandler will open the World Series against Mid-Atlantic champion Wilmington, Del., at noon (Arizona time) Saturday on ESPN.
‘‘I’m really excited to be going to Williamsport,’’ said Chandler catcher Tim Fowler, who launched a sixth-inning solo home run 240 feet into the night. ‘‘Just to get here to the regionals was an accomplishment and to be going to Williamsport is just unbelievable.’’
Added Bernard in a comment typical of a 12-year-old: ‘‘I’m just really happy right now. We get to miss more school.’’ School in Chandler began July 30. But not for the Chandler little leaguers, who left early this morning for Pennsylvania.
In a word, Bernard was amazing in the finale. Standing 46 feet from home plate, he delivered fastballs at 73 mph, translating into 95 mph at a major league distance.
‘‘He’s a tough pitcher,’’ Vineyard manager Richard Reyes said. ‘‘We thought we could hit him. We thought we had some hard-hit balls and we should have had a few more hits. But he was a good pitcher out there.’’
Chandler scored its first run in the first inning off SoCal starter Jordan Dresner. A leadoff single by Justin Rosales, a stolen base, a wild pitch and an error on Vineyard second baseman Elijah Briseno brought Rosales across.
That’s the only run Bernard needed. He allowed four hits and struck out eight. In 12 innings in the regional, he struck out 21 and allowed a total of only six hits.
Bernard struck out the side in the fifth, leaving just three outs to go to get to Williamsport.
But first Fowler had to provide a little insurance. With one out in the top of
the sixth, Fowler picked out a Dresner offering and walloped it over the Washington Pavilion canopy in center field and over a tree behind the canopy. The entire Chandler team met Fowler at home plate and pounded him on the back.
‘‘I just got my pitch and I hit it,’’ said Fowler.
Finally, in the sixth, Vineyard center fielder Mike Rodriguez stroked a two-out single, then slugger Tommy Reyes hit a bullet at Rosales. Rosales dropped the line drive, retrieved it, then triumphantly stepped on second base, securing the victory.
‘‘This is a feeling that’s just unbelievable,’’ Chandler coach Eddy Malone said. ‘‘I’m just proud for all these kids for doing this.’’
Bernard, one of many heroes for Chandler in San Bernardino, said he’s always dreamed of this kind of notoriety.
‘‘I always thought it would be cool to be on TV, playing in front of a lot of people,’’ he said.
Now the Chandler kids will be. In Williamsport, no less.
SHORT HOPS: Karen Hardenburg, the mother of Chandler players Aaron and Trent, said before the game that school started on July 30 for Chandler kids and she didn’t know what the players would do about their studies if they made it to Williamsport.
‘‘I guess they’ll get tutors or make up classes,’’ Karen said. ‘‘Or else they’re going to have a lot of homework to do.’’ . . . Chandler fans arrived early, making up a fraction of the overflow crowd. They came wearing maroon, gold and white and carrying hand-made signs. One said, ‘‘Chandler Rocks on ESPN2.’’ . . . The 7,000-seat stadium was filled before the opening pitch, with more fans sitting on the terraced grass behind the outfield fence.
Going to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., was a dream for the Chandler National Little League team.
Now comes the reality: Paying for it.
Travel costs for the 12 players and three coaches are covered, but family members are on their own.
The expense became a little less daunting when Chandler city councilman Dean Anderson, in attendance Tuesday night, offered $10,000 of the city’s money. Chandler National vice president Doug Bernard quickly accepted.
Those interested in helping to further defray the expenditures can call Bernard at (480) 926-2942.