Bellaire Seeks Series Win

Saturday, August 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — Before the talk-show appearances are set, before the parades are mapped out, the Little Leaguers from Bellaire, Texas, have one more thing to accomplish.

That's beating Maracaibo, Venezuela, in Saturday's Little League World Series championship game.

``Obviously, if you don't win tomorrow's game, you fall short of winning what you come up here for,'' Bellaire manager Terry McConn said Friday.

That's a bit of a switch after Thursday, when McConn said everything was gravy after winning the U.S. title.

``Winning the United States championship, I think I made that comment because I wanted to make sure the boys knew that they had won a really big game,'' McConn said.

``No, we want to win that game. We want to win the whole thing, absolutely,'' he said.

Whatever the outcome, McConn said he's already received inquiries from the staffs of Jay Leno's Tonight Show and David Letterman's Late Night, and parades — one in Houston, another in Bellaire — are already being organized.

``It's scaring me with everything I'm hearing about what's going on.''

Bellaire is the sixth Texas team to reach the final and is seeking to become the first U.S. South team to win the Series since Marietta, Ga., in 1983. The last Texas team to win was Houston in 1966.

If omens are an indication, Bellaire might have the edge. On the team's flight to Pittsburgh, the pilot came back to meet with the players, telling them he was a member of the '66 champions.

Maracaibo has had an interesting ride to the championship game as well.

To begin with, their flight from Venezuela had to return home because of mechanical problems.

They've been flying high ever since, reaching the title game by upsetting favored Tokyo in Thursday's international final.

``He was not really that surprised,'' said Luis Sanchez, interpreting for Maracaibo manager Eduvino Quevedo. ``To become a Latin American champion, you have to compete with 12 other champions who play very aggressive baseball. You feel you are prepared to go all the way.''

Sierra Maestra-Maracaibo is the ninth Venezuelan team to reach the Series, and second to get to the championship game after Coquivacoa-Maracaibo won it all in 1994.

Bellaire and Maracaibo are evenly matched, particularly because Bellaire ace Ross Haggard — who dominated the Series with two wins and a save — is unavailable after pitching in Thursday's U.S. final.

Bellaire (3-1) enters the game batting .256 for the Series, led by Michael Johnson, who's 7-for-12 with three homers and four RBIs.

Maracaibo (3-1), batting .230 as a team, has been led by Ruben Mavarez, who is 4-for-10 with two homers and six RBIs.

Quevedo, who's been concerned about the lack of offense, said the team has been coming around.

Neither manager is letting on who will start Saturday.

McConn said he's got three — Johnson, Drew Zizinia or Alex Atherton — to choose from, but won't say which one to allow them all to get a good night's sleep.

Quevedo said it's a choice between Junior Valero and Ruben Mavarez, who each won a game in the preliminary round.

Johnson, meanwhile, has been the most laid back of all the Bellaire players this week.

``I'm not really nervous because, really, our goal was just to win district,'' Johnson said. ``And all of a sudden we got here. So I don't really care if we win or lose.''