Youth Baseball: Hollister places 7 of 8 teams in finals

Jared Esparza and his Hollister National 11-12 teammates find themselves in the District 9 championship game. 

Frank Reyes and Craig Yamaoka were hoping for competitive games in their team’s respective semifinal games on Tuesday. Reyes got what he wished for, while Yamaoka’s club was simply too good to be challenged.
Reyes, the manager of the Hollister 10-11 All-Star team, saw his squad eke out a 3-2 win over Salinas National and advance to the District 9 tournament championship game against Hartnell Saturday at 3 p.m. at Veterans Park.
Yamaoka, the manager of the Hollister American 11-12 All-Star team, watched his team dismantle King City 11-1 in Tuesday’s semifinal. American plays Hollister National, which was equally dominant in a 12-2 semifinal victory over Continental.
The all-Hollister final takes place at 6 p.m. Saturday at Veterans Park. Hollister has a storied baseball tradition, and by placing seven of its eight All-Star teams into Saturday’s District 9 championship contests—the 8-9, 9-10 and 11-12 divisions are all-Hollister finals while the 10-11 age group has Hollister American playing Hartnell—goes down as one of the great moments in Hollister Little League baseball history.
The American 10-11 pitching corps of D.J. Lopes, Jackson Pace and Chase Freeman have been on point with their control, and they all field their position well. Offensively, Jack Brothers, Julian Gonzalez, Nico Gutierrez and Lopes have been productive. Gutierrez hit a grand slam in the team’s final pool play game against Hollister National.
Reyes has used his entire 12-player roster, and he’s counting on them to come through in the tournament finale. Meanwhile, Hollister American’s 11-12 team has been an offensive juggernaut, scoring a whopping 85 runs—that’s 17 runs per game—in five pool-play contests.
American’s 11 runs were the fewest it has scored in six tournament games. The distance from home plate to the outfield fence—200 feet—amounts to child’s play for today’s 11- and 12-year-olds.
“The team is hitting the ball like I expected them to,” Yamaoka said. “The kids are bigger and stronger nowadays, and we’ve been hitting a lot of home runs—a lot.”
Marcus Aranda, Joey De Vera and Scotty Freund have provided the bulk of the offensive fireworks; however, a couple of other players have hit home runs as well. Ryan Io, Austin Salamida and Freund have all provided strong pitching performances.
American gets Hollister National in the title game, a rematch of the slugfest American won 23-14 in the final pool play game last week.
“Whenever you play another Hollister team, you know it’s going to be a tough game,” Yamaoka said.
Even though National lost to American by nine runs, the game was closer than it appeared. The teams were tied 12-12 after six innings before American broke things open in the seventh. National enters the title tilt with plenty of confidence, as it hit six home runs in a semifinal game that was called after four innings due to the mercy rule.
Leadoff hitter Jared Esparza had one of the team’s six homers, and cleanup batter Michael Coffelt has been a hitting machine. Noah Perez has been lights-out in most of his starts, and the team has been receiving contributions from everyone on the roster.
“I’m pretty pleased with how the boys are playing,” National manager Oscar Esparza said. “To have an all-Hollister final is pretty exciting. We kind of had a feeling it was going to happen.”
Meanwhile, the Hollister American 10-11 squad—after rolling in pool play—received a huge boost when Salinas National took it to the limit in the semifinals. After a series of overwhelming victories, American was pushed to the limit. Reyes wanted his team to experience a close game before Saturday’s final, and he got it.
“A manager always has that fear if you have a bunch of blowout wins or lopsided scores because when the player is put in a situation in a tough game, how will they respond to that,” Reyes said a day before the contest against Salinas. “I’m confident the boys will be ready because of the fact they’re winning games and doing it with solid fundamentals. I feel confident they can perform in any type of game.”
Even though American’s closest game in pool play was a 10-4 victory over Gonzales, Reyes said the score was deceiving in that Gonzales always fields a tough team.
“Even though it was 10-4, it was a well played game,” he said.
American was downright dominant in pool play, outscoring teams by a combined margin of 44-4. American played just 18 innings in the four games because it mercy-ruled three of its opponents.
American held teams scoreless in 17 of its 18 innings played, one of the more impressive stats you’ll ever come across.
“Our emphasis is on defense and pitching, and our kids have been great in both those areas,” Reyes said. “We’ve never made more than one error in a game (in pool play), and that’s something to be proud of.”

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