SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — Paseo Verde Little League coach Jim Kelly teaches math at Miller Middle School in Henderson.
His skills come in especially handy when his team is piling up runs like it did Friday.
The Henderson squad’s offense was again in high gear during a 14-8 victory over Arrowhead LL of Glendale, Ariz., in the West Region semifinals at Al Houghton Stadium.
The victory propelled Paseo Verde into the region championship game against Waipio, Hawaii, at 7 p.m. Sunday, with a trip to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., on the line. The game will be shown live on ESPN2.
“This means a lot,” said Paseo Verde third baseman/pitcher Jesse Keiser, who had two homers among three hits. “We’d like to be the first Nevada team to go to Williamsport. Green Valley did good last year, but we would like to go farther.”
Green Valley was eliminated in the 2007 region semifinals.
Paseo Verde avoided that fate by scoring in five of six innings, including a five-run uprising in the fourth to grab a 10-6 lead that held up.
“The kids have been dreaming about this for seven years, since they were in T-ball,” said Mike Blasko, father of slugging Paseo Verde ace pitcher/shortstop Michael Blasko.
At 5 feet 7 inches, 160 pounds, Michael has been compared by a longtime Little League observer to Cody Webster, the stocky, blonde-haired boy who pitched and slugged Kirkland, Wash., to the 1982 World Series championship.
Asked if he sees any similarities, Kelly found one: “They both dominated.”
Blasko will start on the mound Sunday against Waipio, which will counter with left-hander Khade Paris.
Blasko also started Friday but was pulled when he approached 20 pitches, leaving him eligible to pitch Sunday.
Kelly said saving Blasko for Sunday could be the difference.
“If I pitched my 2-3-4 guys against Hawaii, it might be an even game, and I want to take this team to Williamsport,” he said.
Paseo Verde defeated Waipio 4-1 in pool play Tuesday, but Waipio did not start either of its top two pitchers, while Kelly used Blasko.
Paseo Verde outscored opponents 32-10 in four pool-play games and kept up the pressure Friday with an 11-hit attack against Arrowhead.
The Nevadans trailed 6-5 before taking control in the fourth. Blasko supplied a double and Joey Kulla had an RBI single during the big inning.
In addition to Keiser’s big night, Paseo Verde’s James Anderson had three hits and two RBIs.
Anderson also got the win. He relieved Keiser in the first and went 5 1/3 innings, allowing three earned runs.