La Jolla Bronco All-Stars played in the 'Zone'
By BETH DUNN
Special to the Light
Editor’s note: Team mom Beth Dunn wrote this piece about the All-Stars before they played in the West Zone tournament, where they finished second in California and third in the West. See the print edition for photos of the players.
It was the only time in over two months that the La Jolla Bronco All-Stars didn’t act as a unit. Ace pitcher Brandon Nance wanted a bean and cheese burrito. The other eight players on the team were good with tacos.
In a tiny Mexican restaurant in Whittier, kept open late by an understanding owner, nine players and 20 family fans celebrated their team’s unlikely second straight extra inning win to advance to the semi-final round in the Super Regional American Pony League bracket.
The next day would be D-Day – win and the team would make it to Zone and play teams representing Hawaii, Arizona, Utah and Washington; lose and this group of 12-year olds who had become brothers would play together just one more time.
From only a handful of Bronco teams playing in the La Jolla Youth Baseball League, 13 players were selected back in May to play and compete in post-season play as the La Jolla Bronco All-Stars. Coached by Mike Nance, Roy Agbulos and Jack Marshall, the team initially came together in lengthy practices and warm-up games played against other Bronco teams in La Costa and Lakeside.
Ready for their first challenge, the team played in the first-round, South Section, of the American Pony League Tournament from June 19-29 against other San Diego County teams. They prevailed against the best from Ramona, Chula Vista, Paradise Hills and Mira Mesa, but lost to North City in the championship game. They also permanently lost two players. Nonetheless, the boys advanced to the Regional Round held July 10-15 in San Marcos.
In San Marcos, with only nine players because two boys had other commitments, this team of brothers out-played San Marcos and La Costa but then had to forfeit a semi-final game because they lost yet another player. But they did well enough to be the third seed from San Diego County in the Super Regional Round to be held in Whittier July 22-27. There, they would face powerhouse teams representing the best Broncos in California.
Arriving in Whittier, the squad of nine players played their first game against host Whittier. That game, starting at 7:30 p.m. under the lights, was hard fought and went into extra innings tied 4-4. Shortly before 11 p.m., the visitors got up to bat and scored two runs to jump ahead 6-4. Told that the lights would automatically go out at 11 p.m. which would cause a 7 a.m. return to the field, the team hustled to play defense and got the final three outs.
The boys came back the following evening to play a team from Torrance American. That game proved to be another extra inning nail-biter as the visitors came from behind for a dramatic 10-9 win — which brings us to the Mexican restaurant.
Exhausted but exuberant, the boys and their families filled the small restaurant to capacity. Talk turned to the journey of three-hour practices held four times per week with batting practices on off-days, of the amazing games played, and of the chemistry or “ju-ju” flowing between the boys. Not at all sure if the fun would continue, all this special group of kids did the next night was to win against Murrieta’s finest, 12-1, earning the right to play in the Super Regional Championship game against a tough Walnut team.
With the two traveling players back in the fold, the team had a day off then went back up to Whittier to battle Walnut. They came close but lost 3-1 on July 27.
The boys qualified, as the lucky third seed again, to play in the Pony American West Zone Round, held July 29- Aug.1.
Through hard work, focus and family, they are creating memories that will last a lifetime. And, win or lose in Zone, they are bound to continue to make La Jolla proud.
Their journey can be followed on www.pony.org by clicking the Bronco Zone bracket.
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