The 2023 spring season at White Pine Little League baseball officially came to an end last week when the Minors team was eliminated in the Nevada State Tournament.
The White Pine Minors team, who won the District 3 title in June, advanced to the state tournament in Winnemucca, looking to capitalize on their success that included the bats coming alive and the pitching firing zeros during the district tournament.
However, White Pine was unable to catch lightning in a bottle both games, losing by a combined four runs and being eliminated from the state tournament.
Despite the losses, head coach Nate Mingo said he saw growth from every single player as his team was prepared to take on some stiff competition.
“The kids made all kinds of improvements over this whole year,” Mingo said. “They played absolutely amazing. They knew going into state we will be facing really tough teams, but overall, they played amazing.”
White Pine first faced off against Paseo Verde, the District 2 champions, on July 20. With the four-team double elimination tournament, the stakes were higher as the summer continued to progress.
White Pine opened the scoring in the first inning but then Paseo Verde responded with two runs of their own in the second.
After scoring a run in the fourth, White Pine allowed Paseo Verde to score five times in their half of the inning. However, Mingo’s team was not going to go down quietly in the final frame. Trailing by five, White Pine put up two runs, trying to put together a miracle.
Ultimately, the comeback fell a bit short, losing 7-4 and moved to the loser’s bracket as White Pine recorded just three hits compared to committing six errors.
“What I liked, our pitching was excellent, really good defense,” Mingo said. “With the other team not scoring a bunch of runs off of us right away, we were actually doing really well and had a really good chance to compete in that game. Their players matched up from what I can see very well with ours and we fell a little bit short, but our players did excellent.”
Facing elimination, it was win or go home for Mingo and his squad.
However, they were not going to go down easy facing Peccole Little League on July 21, who won the District 4 title.
This was an instant classic.
White Pine was leading 4-0 heading into the bottom of the third inning before Peccole responded by tying the game.
Pitching in the second game against Peccole was Bennett Locke. As Locke was getting into trouble in the third inning, Mingo gave him the confidence he needed, not only to finish the inning, but finish the game.
“Timeline wise, he motioned over to me in the dugout like he wanted to time out,” Mingo said of Locke. “I went out there to talk to him and he thought I was going to pull him. I asked him if he had more gas in the tank. He said he did.
“I said, ‘Go after them. I’m not pulling you. You’re doing just fine. You need to step up on this one.’ So, this one’s all on him. And he shut them down the rest of the game.”
As a result, six innings would not be enough to determine who would move on in the loser’s bracket and whose All Star run would end.
Peccole, the home team, ultimately plated a run in the seventh to send Mingo and his team home.
From winning the district title to playing into the end of July, it was a memorable summer for the White Pine Minors’ All-Star team.
“This is a pretty special group of kids that I’m going to enjoy hopefully being a part of for a long time, all the way up into their high school years,” Mingo said. “I’m hoping the goal is, some of them can move on from there and advance. Just to be able to look back at all these memories and be a part of them, every one of them, it’s pretty special to me.”
With this chapter coming to an end, Mingo acknowledges that he was not the only person supporting the players. It was also the help and support from others in making this All-Star run a success.
“Thank you to the community for allowing me to be a part of their children’s development in baseball,” Mingo said. “I’m not necessarily a brain in the game but I want to say thank you to all the parents and the whole little league community there for allowing me to be a part of it, along with the other two coaches for helping me out.”
As a result, as one season comes to a close, another one begins. Most of the players from Mingo’s All-Star team are playing together on a travel ball team for the rest of the summer and into the fall.
Mingo said he wants to keep the good times rolling with his players as the calendar reaches October and November.
“Just keep the momentum going,” Mingo said. “As far as player development and for White Pine, it’s something they haven’t had that we can carry over. In fact, I’ve got seven of them at a nationwide tournament now here in Reno. We just got done with a couple of games (Monday).”