Trailing 9-3 in the sixth inning, the White Sox looked all but done in the championship game of the San Benito Babe Ruth playoff tournament. But even with a loss, the White Sox would have a chance to win the next day as they needed to be beaten twice in the double-elimination tournament.
Turns out, no winner-take-all game was necessary. The White Sox erupted for 10 runs in the sixth en route to a 13-10 win over the Blue Jays on June 29 at Vets Park.
“One of the coaches told the kids that we had to show them something or they’ll come out here (in the next game) and do the same thing to us,” White Sox coach Oscar Esparza said. “The kids really took to that, the energy showed in the dugout and it was just lights out after that.”
Was it ever. A team comprised of 12 to 15 year olds went 8-3-1 in the regular-season to earn the No. 2 seed in the playoffs behind the Red Sox. The White Sox edged the No. 3 seed Nationals 7-6 in their playoff opener before hammering the top-seed Red Sox, 16-4. The latter win vaulted them into the championship round.
The title run capped a slightly shaky start for the White Sox, who lost one and tied one in their first two contests in the regular-season. However, Esparza said the team responded nicely after the slow start.
“They clicked and turned it on after those two games and went on a tear,” he said.
The roster includes Jacob Esparza, Brayden Barone, Jordan Quezada, Kadin Korba, Nate Alves, Westin Aviles, Kaden Rodriguez, Quin Zanger, Nathaniel DeLaRosa, Luke Mahler, Vincent Baraby, Vince Eves, Zahir Gomez and Dillon Nieblas. The coaching staff includes Esparza, Daniel Barone and Jordan Quezada.
Esparza and his staff have been coaching most of the players for the last couple of years, and it never gets old when they get to win another championship.
“The celebration was cool because the season started rough,” Esparza said. “We don’t have the biggest kids and they’re young. A lot of them hadn’t played in a long time because of Covid. We had a lot of sore arms and kids with injuries, kids who were tired and just had to push through. So it was cool to see last night all the smiles on their faces as they were holding the trophies.”
What Esparza particularly enjoyed about the team was all 14 players contributed during the season in some way, whether big or small.
“Whether it was a defensive play on the field, a timely hit or an inning of pitching, everybody put in work, showed up and was ready to play,” he said.
Esparza highlighted Corba’s leadership qualities and his ability to lead both by words and example.
“I think a lot of kids looked up to him,” Esparza said. “He was a good mentor to the kids and took a lot of them under his wing.”
The White Sox hit one home run during the season—off the bat of Korba—which is typically the norm for the Babe Ruth teams who play at Vets Park because the venerable facility has outfield fence dimensions deeper than most high school fields. In the championship game, Barone had a team-best three hits and Alves had two doubles with two runs scored and two RBIs.
Alves also pitched three critical innings that Esparza said kept the team in the game after the squad fell behind 4-0 in the first inning. Korba came on in the top of the seventh to close things out on the mound.
“Nate Alves was kind of the leader for us with his hitting and pitching,” Esparza said. “He set the tone for the rest of the boys. We went into the game with a lot of energy, but once we fell into that 4-nothing hole the mood in the dugout kind of went down. We were able to stay in the game and once we put up 10 runs in the sixth, the momentum changed.”