Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Little League

West Pasco team falls just short of a Little League World Series appearance


Not since 1979 has a team from the North Suncoast done what the West Pasco Little League All-Stars did this month.

Every Little Leaguer has dreams and aspirations of playing on national television in the Little League World Series. A minute percentage, no matter the talent level, ever get the chance. In fact, less than one percent of current major leaguers have played in the tournament.

West Pasco was one victory from joining that elite fraternity. The local team of 12-year-olds was one win away from getting as far as any other North Suncoast team in history, but a 5-4 loss to Rockledge at the state championship game ended that hope. As it stands, the group finished just behind a mark set by Dade City Little League in both 1953 and 1979.

The run for West Pasco began two months ago when league officials named the members of the 2009 Majors All-Star roster. At the time, there was no way any of them could have known what kind of journey lay ahead.

"In the beginning, we knew we were good," Blaize Grabowski said, "but there is no way we could have known we were going to get that far."

Performances all over the diamond carried West Pasco to a 12-1 record during the District 12 and Section 7 tournaments. On the mound, nine different pitchers combined for a 2.11 earned run average, allowing only 26 runs in 13 games. In the batter's box, the lineup was potent with hitters combining for a .361 average, 31 home runs and 96 RBIs during the postseason.

The big hitters for the club were catcher Harrison Keslar and pitcher Tyler Hawks. Keslar led the team with seven homers and a .595 average, also adding 11 RBIs, a team-high six doubles and 16 runs. Hawks was not far behind in any of these categories. He hit for .488 with six home runs and a team-leading 17 RBIs. He also scored 16 runs.

Hawks also combined with Grabowski as the workhorses of the West Pasco pitching staff. The two hurlers each threw more than 22 innings, Grabowski was the only pitcher with more than 10 innings thrown to post a sub-1.00 ERA. His 0.79 mark included a 4-0 record with two saves and 36 strikeouts. Hawks was 2-1 with a 2.69 ERA and 29 strikeouts.

After completing its Section 7 championship, West Pasco readied itself mentally for the tournament in Winter Park for a shot at the state title, which would have made them Team Florida, advancing to the Southeast Regional tournament. From there, the team would've headed to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn., which is where ESPN begins to televise Little League contests.

That did not escape any of the kids or the coaches.

"After the win over West Melbourne in the semifinal, something clicked," West Pasco coach Dave Grabowski said. "The realization that we had a chance at winning the title was both positive and negative, and I think some of the kids started to overlook Rockledge."

Even with all of the impressive stats the team posted in its 13 games, the numbers won't be what the kids remember. It will be the camaraderie and experience of playing on a big stage that will be their memories years from now. And though the team handled the experience with maturity and understanding, the final loss hit some harder than others.

"After already beating them before, the whole team was really upset and some of us got teary-eyed," Hawks said. "It's hard when you realize that it's all over."

Submit feedback, story ideas to

Fast facts

West Pasco
Little League Majors All-Stars

Achievements: State finalists,
Section 7 champs

Hitmen roster

Harrison Keslar, C; Ryan Glenn, 2B; Chris Chiger, 3B; Tyler Hawks, SP; Mike Dodson, 1B; Blaize Grabowski, SS; Elliott Desvergnes, CF; Joe Vaccarino, LF; Josh Lamb, RF; Kyle Lanphear; Thomas Moschner; and R.J. Johnston. Coaches: Dave Grabowski (manager), Randy Keslar, Cory Hawks.

West Pasco team falls just short of a Little League World Series appearance 08/13/09 [Last modified: Thursday, August 13, 2009 7:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. James Wilder Jr. back at running Canada


    Remember when former Plant High star and Florida State running back James Wilder Jr. announced he was switching to linebacker?

    That was short-lived, apparently.

  2. Cup-winning Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk makes Hockey Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman said Dave Andreychuk's name has surfaced often the past eight years with the selection committee.

    30 Oct 2001:  Left wing Dave Andreychuk #25 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates towards the blue line during the NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada.  The Maple Leafs defeated the Lightning 3-2.  Mandatory Credit:  Dave Sanford /Allsport
  3. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  4. Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, Pittsburgh

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Pirates

    7:05, PNC Park

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: Alex Cobb (6-5, 4.05)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  5. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108