Club Baseball: Hollister 21s finish season strong

The Hollister 21s 16-and-under travel-ball team capped off its season in fine fashion, winning the Halloween Bash in Ripon on Oct. 25.

The Hollister 21s 16-and-under travel-ball baseball team recently competed its season—and it was nothing short of spectacular. On Oct. 24, Hollister won the Halloween Bush in Ripon, defeating the previously undefeated Tri-County Spartans, 3-2.
“This was an unbelievable end to a great season,” Hollister manager Kalev Betancourt said in an email. “This was a perfect example of the underdog coming up clutch and beating the mighty Goliath team.”
The Halloween Bash was an open tournament, meaning clubs from every level on the traveling circuit—Double-A, Triple-A and Elite—were in the field. Hollister beat a Tri-County juggernaut that had won the last four tournaments it entered and went into the championship game with a perfect 19-0 mark.
The 21s trailed the Spartans 1-0 entering the top of the seventh inning, with the Spartans pitcher working on a no-hitter. However, Brady Miguel reached on a drag-bunt single before scoring with one out on Andrew Kachel’s infield single. Sebastien Duarte and and West Andrade followed with run-scoring singles to give Hollister a 3-1 lead.
In the bottom half of the inning, the Spartans loaded the bases with two outs before Kachel induced a line out to seal the victory. It was a sweet win for Hollister, which lost to Tri-County in a pool-play game the day before, 3-1. Kachel played on the squad last year but hadn’t played in any games for the 21s this season until the Halloween Bash.
Three weeks ago, the 21s—so named because a team needs to record a minimum of 21 outs to win a game at the high school or travel-ball club level—won the Fall State Championship. Hollister actually lost its first pool game before reeling off four straight wins, including a 4-2 decision over the Triple Crown Rebels in the title contest.
Matt Harris came up with the key hit, a shallow single to center field that drove in two runs and gave the team a 3-2 lead with two outs in the top of the seventh inning. Two batters later, Duarte drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk. A win was far from secure, however, as the Rebels loaded the bases with one out.
Betancourt summoned Matt Campo, who had thrown a complete-game gem in the semifinals just hours before the start of the final. Campo induced a popup and strikeout to clinch the victory.
“I told him (Campo) we’re only going to go to you (in the final) if it’s a dire emergency,” Betancourt said. “It was definitely an emergency, and he shut the door. (In the semifinals) I told him to take us to the championship game, and he did that.”
Grant Schaper started the title contest and went five innings, allowing eight hits but only two earned runs. Harris got the win, allowing no runs over 1 1/3 innings before Campo came to close things out. Betancourt was particularly proud of his players because most of them are 15 year olds playing against teams that have several players a year older.
While a one-year age gap doesn’t seem like a big deal on the surface, travel-ball coaches know better. Players could hit a growth spurt, their game can mature and they can become more seasoned and refined from 15 to 16.
The 21s roster include Andrade, Harris, Duarte, Campo, Schaper, Kachel, Garret Santos, Eli Mullen, Casey Matsui, Kevin Edwards and Brady Miguel.
The coaches include Betancourt and Matt Andrade. What Betancout will remember most about this team is its ability to persevere. In the tournament before the Fall State Championship, Hollister was no-hit in the championship game after scoring 32 runs in the previous three games.
But after closing out the season with back-to-back tournament victories, the Hollister players displayed a gritty resolve and cohesiveness that left Betancourt on a high.
“There were moments when I loved coaching this team so much that I was thinking, ‘I can coach forever,’” Betancourt said.

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