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Little League team that beat Mountain Ridge admits to cheating

Updated April 27, 2021 - 4:58 pm

Seven years later, Jackie Robinson West Little League has owned up to cheating.

The Chicago-based team that defeated Mountain Ridge in the U.S. championship of the Little League World Series in 2014 admitted it used ineligible players.

The acknowledgment came to light Tuesday as part of an agreement that ends a lawsuit between Jackie Robinson West and Little League of America.

Jackie Robinson West admitted its team did not meet residency and school attendance eligibility requirements.

The team “knowingly and without approval expanded its boundaries to include territory that belonged to other leagues and falsified boundary maps used to determine eligibility unbeknownst to players.”

Jackie Robinson West beat Mountain Ridge 7-5 in the U.S. final in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, before losing to South Korea in the Little League World Series title game.

“I think we all need to bury the hatchet and not leave the handle sticking out,” said Ashton Cave, the manager who led Mountain Ridge to its historic run as the first team from Nevada to qualify for a Little League World Series. “We all make mistakes in life. Everybody does.

“I’m glad somebody is taking responsibility for their actions. That seems to be pretty un-American these days, always pointing the finger at others. There was a much bigger lesson to be learned. Eventually, you’re going to get caught. Seven years later, that was finally figured out.”

Jackie Robinson West was stripped of the U.S. title in February 2015 for violating rules in regards to rewriting boundaries. Little League then shipped the championship banner to Mountain Ridge in a large envelope.

The team also received a key to the city upon its return from Williamsport, was honored with a parade and presented with an 8 feet by 12 feet recognition wall at its home park.

A bigger lesson

At the time, being awarded the U.S. title didn’t sit well with Cave.

“If you don’t stop and change how these sorts of things are handled, how can you hope to teach those life lessons to all the kids and parents?” he said then. “There is a story behind this banner, and it needs to be told.

“A blank spot for the 2014 U.S. champions will be the best thing and a constant reminder of what happens when you don’t follow the rules.”

In February 2016, parents of 13 Jackie Robinson West players sued Little League for vacating the U.S. title. Also named were ESPN, on-air personality Stephen A. Smith and a Little League volunteer from Illinois for defamation.

The entire chapter closed for good this week.

“At this point, we’re all in college or working, so we’ve moved past it,” said Austin Kryszczuk, star of the Mountain Ridge team and now a freshman outfielder for UNLV. “They beat us. That’s it. We didn’t play good baseball that day. It’s unfortunate things happened the way they did.

“It was a fantastic time. Obviously, we wished that we could have played for the whole thing. But at the end of the day, making history and being the first team from Nevada to get there was a great experience.”

Sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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