The Hollister Little League All Star teams saw their respective seasons end in the Section Tournament. The 11- and 12-and-under teams both went 0-2, while the 10-and-under squad went 1-2. All three teams had scintillating runs to win the District 9 Tournament only to see the competition best them in sectionals. One thing is for certain: the players are motivated to come back next year and finish the deal.
“What I’ll remember most about this season is winning District, but also that it’s a good jumping off point for the boys to see what it takes to be at the next level,” 10s manager Celso Lopez Jr. said. “It added a little fire in their ability to compete. Section was great for the kids because they got to see the quality of play is a step up. We wanted to win at least one game in section, and we got that done.”
Hollister lost its opening game to Santa Teresa 10-4 before rebounding with a 13-0 victory over Capitola Soquel. Caden Watt and Ami Lopez combined on a one-hitter, and those two pitchers served as de facto co-aces for much of the All-Star season. However, Hollister simply didn’t have the arms or firepower to compete with Cambrian Park, which eliminated Hollister in the next game 19-7 en route to winning the championship.
“Our kids were excited to play Cambrian Park,” Lopez said. “Now they know how much harder they have to work for next year, and they’re excited about it. So as coaches we’re looking forward to seeing these boys develop and progress.”
The 11s team went two and out, though it was competitive until the very end. Hollister opened the Section Tournament with a 6-5 loss to Santa Teresa before seeing its season end with a 9-6 defeat to Los Gatos.
“It was a little frustrating because we felt like we could’ve done better,” said 11s manager Daniel Barone, referring to the team’s costly errors and runners left on base in the latter innings against Los Gatos. “It’s easy to beat ourselves over it a little bit, but I’ll look back and have nothing but great memories of this team. Honestly, this is the best group of kids on a team I’ve ever been a part of as far as attitude and buying into everything the coaches said. No one slacked off, and I was proud of all of them. Being able to be a part of that was great and my favorite moment.”
Barone also got to coach with his two best friends in Oscar Esparza and Jordan Quezada, and their three sons are best friends as well. For Barone and a majority of the kids on the team, it’s onto the travel ball season with the Seam Splitters—which Barone manages, both on the field and operationally. The team will have tryouts on Saturday at Ridgemark Park from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. for the 12U team.
Barone plans on putting his name into the hat to manage the Hollister Little League All Stars next season for the 12-and-under team. Many of the same kids from the 11s squad will likely have aged up to play for the 12s in 2020. This past season, Jordan Quezada was a reliable workhorse pitcher who has a “ton of potential,” Barone said. Catcher Kayden Rodriguez caught every single inning of every game, another consistent player who could be relied upon.
“Kayden was a wall and beast back there,” Barone said. “I think he was the smallest guy on the team, but you think he was 10 feet tall the way he carried himself.”
Jake Esparza roped three doubles in the Section Tournament, while also pitching some quality innings. Barone praised the attitude and play of Anthony Bolin, who always had a smile on his face and was willing to learn and listen to constructive criticism. Barone’s son, Brayden, also carried himself well by competing hard in every at-bat or play.
“I can say something positive about everybody because it was such a great group of kids,” Barone said. “I’m happy with how things turned out. They make the game fun again. They’re out there laughing and carrying on, and even after they’ve just lost they have the attitude of, ‘We’re good and life goes on.’ It’s the proper perspective to have.”