Just call them the comeback teens. The San Benito Babe Ruth 15-and-under All Star team trailed in all four of its games only to win every one of them in capturing the Central State Tournament with a 10-6 victory over Madera on July 11. San Benito advanced to the Pacific Southwest Regional, where it played its first game on Monday in Arizona. Manager Kevin Hatchett said the players on the team don’t have the full grasp of what they’ve accomplished.
“And I hope it stays that way,” Hatchett said. “When they practice, they’re still joking around and having fun.”
Translation: the players are loose and playing free, and if things stay that way, Hatchett is cautiously optimistic the squad can be a serious threat to win the Pacific Southwest Regional and advance to the Babe Ruth World Series. San Benito reached the regional after capturing the District 1 and Central Region State Tournaments.
The roster includes Thomas Breen, Trevor Cordova, Jared Esparza, Braydon Etheridge, Eduardo Gonzalez, Eli Hatchett, Ryan Io, Tyler Kashiwagi, Andrew Minana, Noah Perez, Anthony Pieracci, Zachary Sims, Chris Soto, and Andrew Tobias. The assistant coaches are Oscar Esparza and Ross Kashiwagi.
“I appreciate everything the parents have done to help out in getting us to Arizona,” Hatchett said. “The backing from the community has been incredible.”
Indeed, to help defray the costs of travel, tournament fees and other items, San Benito held two fundraisers: a car wash that netted $2,500 and a Gofundme page that had a donation total of $4,500 through last Wednesday. Eli Hatchett, the manager’s son and a top pitcher/second baseman, also noted members of the team were at a recent Hollister Farmer’s Market requesting donations, and received $800 in four hours.
The numbers speak to the generosity of local residents, who have come up huge in supporting the Babe Ruth All Stars in their quest to make it to the World Series.
“We’re pretty fired up we won state, and we’re ready to play and see what we can do in Arizona,” Eli Hatchett said.
“(Making it to) Surprise (site of the Southwest Regional) was a big goal for us,” Kevin Hatchett said. “Let’s see what we can do from here.”
San Benito opened up tournament play with an 8-1 win over Guam Monday, a nice start to the double-elimination tourney. Temperatures in Surprise are expected to be in the 104 to 117 range—no, that’s not a typo—which is always a concern for players who aren’t residents of the area. Fortunately for San Benito, Hatchett said he’s got up to eight quality pitchers he can use—and he expects to utilize all of them.
“The good part is I don’t have to overuse anybody because I have a solid eight (who can potentially start or at least provide relief innings),” he said. “I’m kind of dreading the heat a little bit—we get some here in Hollister, but they’re not used to the Arizona heat.”
San Benito opened the Central State Tournament with an 8-5 win over Hanford before following that up with a 8-4 triumph over Delano and a 6-5 victory against Madera, which went through the loser’s bracket to reach Game 1 of the championship round. Since San Benito was the tourney’s lone undefeated team, Madera had to win twice to take the championship.
It didn’t happen. San Benito was down 1-0 in the third inning before Perez hit a two-run home run. Madera scored a run in the fifth to make it 2-2, but San Benito scored three runs in the top of the sixth inning to take control. Breen hit a leadoff single, was sacrificed to second base by Esparza and scored on a Soto single.
Gonzales’ two-run double made it 5-2. The tough Madera squad responded yet again, scoring twice in the bottom of the sixth to cut its deficit to 5-4. San Benito answered with a five-run uprising in the top of the seventh, highlighted by a Tobias two-run homer. San Benito trailed Hanford 5-0, Delano 4-0 and Madera by four runs before launching huge comebacks to win all three contests. Io drove in the go-ahead run against Hanford and had a crucial run-scoring double against Delano while also earning the win for both games. In the first game against Madera, Breen had two hits and Esparza hit a sacrifice-fly to score Minana for the go-ahead run in the sixth inning. San Benito made things exciting—perhaps a bit too exciting.
“They’re giving me a couple of more gray hairs than I’d like,” Hatchett said. “I told them it was not that they won, but the way they won. They never gave up, and that is what baseball is all about.”
Said Eli Hatchett: “Thank goodness we have a bunch of guys who still have that fire to know if we’re down, we know we’re going to come back.”
Entering Pacific Southwest Regional play, Perez led the team with a .625 average and .727 on-base percentage. Gonzales was hitting .471 and Io .400. Io also has been dynamite on the mound, totaling 14 innings of shutout ball.