The Hollister Little League 11U All Star team edged Hartnell 3-2 to win the District 9 championship June 30 at Ferrasci Little League Field in Salinas. Submitted photo.

The Hollister Little League All Star teams tend to dominate the District 9 Tournament, and this season it was no different. 

The 11U and 12U squads won their respective age divisions, while the 10U lost in the finals. Winners in the District round advance to the Section 5 Tournament. The 12U team started Section 5 play vs. Santa Teresa July 12 at Union Little League Field in San Jose. 

The 11U tournament starts July 14 and is hosted by Campbell and Moreland Little League. The two Hollister teams will attempt to do what no Hollister squad has done in at least 10 years: advance to the Northern California Divisional tournament. 

The Section 5 Tournament has proven to be a roadblock for the Hollister All Stars in every age category, but 11U manager Johnny Lee Corral III is optimistic that both the 11U and 12U teams can get through Section, though he knows it will be a supreme challenge. 

“It’s going to be tough but I like this team,” he said. “I think they rely on not just skill but trust. They’ve grown a lot together. We had four new kids from last year’s [10U] team, but we’ve got the team chemistry, consistency, all those things [of a winning team].”

Corral III said he emphasizes a family-oriented, team-building approach, knowing many of the boys will grow up together and remain friends through middle school and high school. 

The roster includes Aaron Prieto, Jaxson Jennings, Jordan Corral, Andrew Freitas, Mason Mead, Valentin Munoz, Anthony Espinoza, Andrew Ruiz, Rhett Quinlan, Jack Hain, Brody Skow, Breyon Pelaiz and Caiden Duffy with Corral III and assistant coaches Johnny Lee Corral Jr. and Josh Jennings. 

With just five teams this year in the 11U District 9 field, Hollister wrapped things up nine days before the 12U team won its championship. The 11U group opened with a 6-0 victory over Hartnell before closing with a 5-3 win over Ferrasci and a 3-2 decision over Hartnell in the title game on June 30 at Ferrasci Little League Field in Salinas. 

Because Hollister won in three games, Corral III was able to use his best pitchers and shorten his rotation to three players. Those arms included Munoz and Freitas in Game 1, Freitas and Prieto in Game 2 and Munoz and Prieto in the championship contest. 

“They’re pretty consistent in the strike zone, they’ve got good speed on the ball, experience, just good mentality and they’re positive,” Corral III said. “All good attributes baseball players need. They understand situations, knowing what to do and what pitch to throw in certain situations.”

Corral III appreciated the team’s ability to prevail in close games, including the semifinals and finals. Hollister trailed for a time in its final two games. In fact, Corral III said the team trailed for a while against Ferrasci before roaring back for the victory. 

“I believe they had the lead on us for a while, but somewhere in the fourth or fifth inning we kind of broke it open,” he said. “The team knew how to push through any kind of mistakes and errors and they never quit.”

Corral III is only 27 and actually has a younger brother—not son—on the team in Jordan Corral, the leadoff hitter. Jordan has a high on-base percentage and brings intangibles every team needs to be successful. 

“He’s the littlest guy in Little League, but he’s a tough kid,” Corral III said. “My brother got walked a lot because he’s little. His strike zone is pretty small so it’s hard to pitch to him. He takes what they give him and does a great job for us.”

Prieto hits second in the lineup, Jennings third, Munoz cleanup and Freitas fifth in the order. Corral III said Jennings was “probably our most consistent hitter throughout the tournament” but everyone did their part and contributed. 

From a purely offensive standpoint, Corral III said the team struggled a bit as the players were used to hitting against faster pitching. That will surely come in the Section 5 Tournament as the competition will be markedly tougher. 

“I think they’re used to seeing 60s [mph pitches] rather than 40s, so hopefully this tournament we’ll see faster pitches we can hit and get our offense up to what we’re used to seeing,” he said.

The 12U team steamrolled its competition, going 4-0 with a double-digit average margin of victory. Hollister’s only close game came in the final, where it beat Hartnell, 4-2, on July 8 at Manzanita Field in Prunedale. 

The roster includes Cadence Smith, Sammy Canela, Dylan Cantrell, Rocco Gamez, Taylor Heckman, Reece Kaplansky, Izaiah Lopez, Nathan Osorio, Ezyiael “Bryant” Quezada, Nicolas Quezada, Eli Ramos, and Fabian Romo with manager David Kaplansky and coaches Bryan Smith and Javier Ramos. 

The Hollister 12U All Star team celebrates after winning the District 9 title July 8. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
Hollister’s Izaiah Lopez makes a nice play at shortstop during the D-9 title game. Photo by Jonathan Natividad.
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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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