The Hollister 12U All Star team went 5-0 and outscored its opponents 82-6 to win the District 9 championship on July 9. Photo by DeAnna Cortez.

Hollister Little League’s All Star teams continued its historic domination of District 9 this season, winning at the 10U, 11U and 12U level and finishing as the runner-up at the 9U level.

It was a sterling performance once again by the storied Little League program. Now, a Hollister team is looking to do something that hasn’t been done in several years, if not over a decade: to win at the Sectional level. 

Miguel Cortez certainly hopes that moment is imminent. The 12U manager guided the team to a dominating performance for the District 9 championship, outscoring five opponents by a combined margin of 82-6—yes, 82-6. 

The roster includes Eligh Briscoe, Nate Candelaria, Samuel Canela, Elias Cortez, Dominic Cosio, Max Cunningham, Donovan Diaz, Max Guardino, Braiden Hernandez, Izaiah Lopez, Damian Polanco, Eli Ramos and Layton Smith. 

The coaching staff includes Miguel Cortez, Ben Candelaria and Damien Diaz. 

“The boys were all ecstatic and really happy,” Cortez said. “We’ve been practicing almost everyday for a month and to see all their work pay off at the end is pretty special.”

Hollister plays District 39 champion Aptos in the Section 5 Tournament on July 14 at Pajaro Valley Little League Field in Watsonville. Hollister beat Soledad 7-4 in the District 9 title contest, its only competitive game of the tournament. 

The final was July 9 at Hartnell Little League Field in Salinas. The score was 1-1 after three complete innings before Hollister created some separation. It went ahead for good with a run in the fourth inning before a four-run fifth made it 7-2. 

Smith had two home runs and totaled five or six for the tournament. Candelaria started and delivered another quality outing, going three or four innings. 

“Nate is a big power pitcher who throws hard,” Cortez said. “It was a good dominating performance from someone who has kind of been our workhorse.”

Smith is one of the biggest 12 year olds you’ll ever see and he’s also one of the team’s top pitchers along with Candaleria, Briscoe and Cunningham. Literally every player hit as the team put up video game-like numbers. Smith and Candelaria barreled up early and often, and Elias Cortez and Diaz also produced key hits. 

Cortez played a strong shortstop and catcher, and he’s one of several players who possess a versatile skill set. 

“A lot of kids can play multiple positions and can hit up and down the lineup,” Miguel Cortez said. “It’s a very talented roster and it’s been a pretty special time.”

This season takes on added meaning for Cortez and his coaching staff. Two years ago, Cortez was in line to help select the Hollister 10U All Star team when Covid wiped out the season. 

“I was eager to see that group of kids and had a vision of who I wanted to select when they were supposed to be 10-year-old All Stars,” he said. “Now they’re 12 and you’re getting to see it.” 

Cortez is cherishing each day, as he knows this is his final season of coaching and managing a Little League All Star squad. His son will age out of 12s and play for a travel program next year. The father-son moments that are shared during Little League are indeed priceless. 

Cortez has been coaching Elias since he started playing T-ball at age 4. 

“Being able to coach this year is like closing the last chapter in this book,” Miguel said. “From where we started when he was 4 to where we are now, I couldn’t be more proud of him. Being able to share these moments with him has been really special.”

Editor’s note: Look for additional stories on other Hollister District champions in a future edition of the Free Lance

Hollister players prepare to congratulate Layton Smith after the slugger hit a home run. Photo by DeAnna Cortez.
Elias Cortez, Nate Candelaria and Eligh Briscoe had big games in the District 9 Tournament. Photo by DeAnna Cortez.
Elias Cortez played a strong shortstop and catcher during District action. Photo by DeAnna Cortez.

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]m

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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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