The Hollister Little League All Star teams went a perfect 4-0 in the District 9 championship games last Saturday in Salinas. Hollister’s 12-and-under group—the age group level that culminates with the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Penn. in late August—mauled the competition en route to the title, outscoring five opponents by a combined margin of 66-1.
No, that’s not a typo. Hollister was that good, and with the exception of the 11-and-under team that had a pair of one-run nail-biters in the tournament, the majority of the games featured blowouts. The 11s squad defeated Atlantic 9-1 in its title game, the 10s team beat Soledad 8-1 and the 9s team whipped Hartnell 11-1 in the championship game.
The 12s team dispatched Soledad 16-0 in its title contest, putting an exclamation point on what was perhaps the most dominant tournament run in District 9 history. Three of the four Hollister teams advance to the Section 5 Tournament (the 9-and-under level doesn’t go beyond District play). Even though the 12s team made short work of its opponents, the players still had a blast.
“The kids were very, very excited, and are looking forward to section,” 12s manager Hector Esparza said. “I believe this team has the potential to win the section, and that is our goal.”
The 12s roster include Nathan Alves, Westin Alves, Gavyn Churchill, Jayden Corral, Benton Cross, Dominic Esparza, Andrew Gastelum, Alexander Hernandez, Robert Holsten, Daniel Martinez, Trenton Roach, Steven Salcedo and Jacob Sanchez. The 11s roster include Jacob Esparza, Brayden Barone, Anthony Bolin, Jordan Quezada, Jordan Slate, Jonathan Barnes, Kyian Rhodabarger, Danny Rubalcava, Marcus Vasquez, Ashlee Io, Kaden Rodriguez, Cruz Raquet and Isaiah Yniguez.
The 10s roster include Ami Lopez, Reese Vidal, Joaquin Machado, Max Cunningham, Ryder Ward, Tyler Frisco, Tanner Frisco, Luke Mahler, Kody Dickens, Ben Candelaria, James Summers, Donavan Price and Enrique Rivas. The 9s roster was included in a previous article in the Free Lance, along with a story on the team. The 11s team won a pair of 5-4 games in the winners’ bracket quarterfinal and semifinals over Ferrasci and Atlantic, respectively, before pulling away from Atlantic in the championship game. Hollister did it by utilizing its tremendous speed and baserunning instincts.
“We’re a fast team and able to take bases freely,” 11s manager Daniel Barone said. “We scratched off a couple of runs just by stealing bases.”
Against Atlantic in the semifinals, Hollister was down to its final strike on two different occasions in the bottom of the sixth inning before prevailing in the seventh. Io had two strikes on her before drawing a walk and Jacob Esparza was down to his last strike before producing a single, plating Io for the tying run. In the seventh, Barone and Quezada accounted for the winning run in helping lead the team to the title game.
Rubalcava crushed a two-run triple, while Quezada delivered six innings of one-run ball in a dominating pitching performance. Quezada needed just 58 pitches to get through five innings, a sign he was dealing.
“The kids were so excited, and that’s why we as coaches do this,” Barone said. “We get to be a part of this and watch the joy they get out of playing this game, which brings us to back when we were a kid playing this game. I couldn’t be more proud of this group.”
The 12s team plays like a powerhouse unit and features plenty of talent, with five ace-type pitchers in Martinez, Hernandez, Holston, Churchill and Roach. The squad has a potent lineup as well, with Dominic Esparza and Holston carrying the hottest bats right now.
“But all of the other kids are hitting well, too,” Hector Esparza said. “And any of them can get hot and drive in runs.”The 10s team received contributions from everyone on the roster, with Lopez and Dickens combining for a pitching gem in the championship game, while Tanner Frisco, Lopez and Dickens had multiple hits. In addition to Dickens and Lopez, Tyler Frisco and Candelaria strung together strong performances each time they took the mound.