The Sioux Falls Little League team has been making South Dakota and the entire region proud all summer long. The Midwest champions lost in the first round of the Little League World Series, but the team plays in Williamsport Pennsylvania again Saturday night.
The team did fall victim to a perfect game Friday, but its head coach is optimistic this team can move forward.
"I thought we were ready, and they were ready, let's face it. We have been undefeated so far. We ran into a really good team. I always have said, how good is this team? Now we know - not as good as the Southeast. We'll come back in, and we'll hit," head coach Jeff Riley said.
It was a tough loss, but that optimistic attitude is something coach Jeff Riley rarely strays from. This is the first year Sioux Falls has had a team illegible for a shot at the Little League World Series, and here they are led by a man who says, he was never really interested in coaching.
"I've never wanted to be a coach. I've always just wanted to let the kids play. Six years ago, the coach quit the day before the season, and so they were like we need someone. A bunch of parents showed up, and one Mom was like, 'well I will help.' I was like, 'I'll do it,' he said.
He's been successful ever since, but he doesn't take the credit.
"The reality is, I've always been blessed with athletes, with really good grounded kids," he said.
One of those good grounded kids is his own son, Mason.
"It's always been a pleasure coaching Mason because he puts a lot of work into it at home. The unfairness for that is, for all the other kids, I can be the mean coach, and that's Mason's dad. That's the struggle. I don't ever want Mason to be singled out, 'Oh, Mason's dad, he's so mean.' I'm just the coach, so it has to be that way." Riley said.
I treat all 14 of my boys right now like they are my own son. There's discipline. They are reprimanded, but to coach my son is just a dream come true, especially out here with all the work he's put in," Riley said.
"It's amazing I guess, knowing my dad is the coach of a team that is one of the top 16 teams in the world," Mason Riley said.
Jeff says it's been an experience getting to see Mason play, especially in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
"You know I sit back, and there's times he gets base hits in this tournament, and I almost get welled up in tears because I know all the hard work that goes into this: hitting off tees into nets, playing catch, and really just sitting down and watching baseball as a family you learn so much," Riley said.
Mason says having dad as coach has some perks and of course some drawbacks.
"It's fun, but it's also hard. It's fun because you get to know everything before everybody, but it's hard because if everyone is sitting and we have to run out to the fence, he will run at me first," Mason said.
Either way, both Rileys are optimistic to move on in the Little League World Series. Coach Riley says it's time for a Cinderella story.