Baseball: Hollister 10-11, 11-12 All-Star teams move on

The Hollister 11-12 All-Star team was all smiles after capturing the District 9 Tournament championship.

The District 9 Little League 11-12 All-Star championship game featured two flamethrowers in Scotty Freund and Noah Perez.
Freund, a right-hander for Hollister American, consistently threw fastballs in the mid-60s. Perez, a righty for Hollister National, was clocking pitches in the low 70s. Both players were overpowering at times, but it was Freund’s American team that proved to be superior in an 8-5 win Saturday at Veterans Park.
American played on Thursday to open up the Section 5 tournament at Vets (the result was not available when this edition went to press).
“The boys stepped up, battled and played really well,” American manager Craig Yamaoka said. “We knew we’d most likely face Perez because he’s a tough pitcher.”
In preparation for Perez, American moved its batting screen in practice closer to home plate to account for the speed differential they’d be facing. American never trailed, taking a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning thanks to run-scoring singles from Marcus Aranda and Joe De Vera, respectively.
American led 5-3 entering the top of the fifth before drilling three consecutive home runs—Freund, Emiliano Quintero and Eduardo Gonzalez all went deep—allowing American to pull away.
Freund went 5 1/3 innings, allowing five hits and four runs while striking out nine. Perez pitched four innings, allowing five runs while striking out 11. This was the second time the teams played in the tournament, as American defeated National 23-14 in pool play two weeks ago.
Both teams have strong lineups, but American has a very physical lineup that seemingly matches up well with any elite pitcher. American received two hits each from Freund, Aranda, Quintero and Thomas Breen. Freund said he loves the challenge of facing a tough team like National.
“We know all of the guys on their team, and it makes for a competitive game,” he said. “I was just pumping it and throwing it. I felt juiced from the start, and it’s a great feeling to be able to win a championship.”
Trevor Cordova had a homer for National, which also received two singles from leadoff hitter Jared Esparza. Cordova also had a run-scoring groundout in the fourth. One of the key moments of the game came in the fifth when American left fielder Paul Yamaoka made a nice grab before throwing to second base for a double play.
National had runners at second and third with one out before Yamaoka’s play. Craig Yamaoka said he was proud of the team for keeping a solid mental approach from start to finish. American committed three errors, but it did little to affect the outcome.
“Errors are part of the game,” Craig Yamaoka said. “If they make a mistake, they’ll make the next play. That’s one of the things I like about this team, is how they came together and played with a cohesiveness to put the team first.”
On the mound, Freund was a picture of intensity. Freund attacked the strike zone, maintained his poise and never lost his focus.
“Scotty has a pitch-by-pitch mentality the whole time,” Yamaoka said. “He’s been very consistent and calm on the mound. He looks forward to the challenge.”
In the 10-11 final, Hollister American received tremendous pitching performances from starter D.J. Lopes and reliever Chase Freeman, as the two combined to limit Hartnell to five hits in a 4-2 victory.
“D.J. and Chase are the ultimate competitors,” said Hollister American manager Frank Reyes, whose team opened up Section 5 Tournament play on Wednesday in Los Gatos (the result was not available when this edition went to press).
“Our performance today was typical of us—good defense, good pitching and getting timely hits.”
Hollister set the tone early when Julian Gonzalez blasted a two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning. American made it 3-0 an inning later on a Lopes double. Hartnell answered with two in the top of the third, but it was shut down the rest of the way. Lopes had two of the team’s seven hits, and he went 3 2/3 innings to earn the win.
“It was crazy and exciting to win this game,” said Lopes, who was recently selected to play in the USSSA 11-and-under All-American Games Aug. 2-7 in Orlando, Fla. Lopes was one of only 15 players to get selected for the Northwest region team. “We just practice until we can’t anymore, and that’s how we get better. Our defense has been great, and as a pitcher, you really appreciate a great defense behind you.”
Reyes said he loves it when the team takes the lead, because it allows his pitchers to stay aggressive in attacking the strike zone. Hollister scored its final run in the fifth inning courtesy of Michael Canez’s single to shallow left field.

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