East Williston’s top Little League baseball team is hoping to make it to the world stage for the first time.
The East Williston Wildcats 12U team won its second Little League District 28 championship in three years last Thursday, beating Port Washington 15-3.
With a deep pitching staff and strong bonds between players, the team outscored its opponents 65-12 in the district tournament’s four games, said Nick Koutsoftas, one of the Wildcats’ six coaches.
The Wildcats will play the first game of the New York Section 4 tournament on Saturday against Massapequa International. They hope to win their first sectional title, giving them a ticket to the state tournament and possibly the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
“These kids are excited, they know what’s at stake and they’re pumped up,” Koutsoftas, who has coached Little League baseball for about 10 years, said. “We’re still practicing every day, so I think they’ll be ready.”
Most of the 12 boys, all residents of the East Williston school district, have been playing together for a full year, working out through the winter and practicing every day as the district tournament approached, Koutsoftas said. One player, Patrick Desarno, is sitting out of the sectional tournament due to an injury, he said.
Many Wildcats players have gone to school together or played on some of the same baseball teams previously, Koutsoftas said.
Their comfort with each other and dedication to the game led to their dominance in the district tournament, Koutsoftas said. Collectively they got 72 hits, stole 17 bases and hit 14 home runs in the four games, while only committing four errors, he said.
The Wildcats have four solid starting pitchers, but most of the players can take the mound if needed, Koutsoftas said. Kevin Barrett, Colin Fisher, Will Karikas and Anthony Tufano struck out 18 batters while giving up only 17 hits in the district tournament.
That defensive strength will likely be key in the sectional tournament, he said, where the competition is tougher.
“I think we could go up against any team pitching-wise,” Koutsoftas said. “It’s just a matter of — it’s a game of inches. … I imagine that these games now will be much, much closer.”
The Wildcats will play the first two games of the sectional double-elimination tournament on Saturday and Sunday. If they win both, they advance to the championship next Thursday, July 20.
The winner of the sectional tournament will advance to the state championship, which starts on July 25.