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La Jolla Youth Baseball hosts 67 teams in Pony Baseball Southwest Regional Tournament

The undefeated, West Zone World Series-bound La Jolla Youth Baseball 6U Shetland All-Stars
The undefeated, West Zone World Series-bound La Jolla Youth Baseball 6U Shetland All-Stars team: (Back row) Coaches Mike Gotfredson, Jeff Pinto, Matt McNutt, Rob Robinson, and (front) Luke Newman, Ryder Martin, Parker Gotfredson, Zach Pinto, Ben Blumenthal, Blake Schaffran, Robbie Robinson, James Braverman, Colton Burton, Reeve McNutt.
(Courtesy of Rob Robinson)

Cliffridge Park is bustling with young baseball players as La Jolla Youth Baseball hosts the Pony Baseball Southwest Regional Tournament through Monday, July 5. Sixty-seven teams from across the region lined up to compete in various age brackets.

“The [five] fields are really alive,” said La Jolla Youth Baseball President Scott Blumenthal. “With the energy and atmosphere and support from all the families, it’s nice to see the fields as electric as they are.”

Teams in the Shetland (6 and younger), Pinto (7 and under), Mustang (9 and under and 10 and under), Bronco (12 and under) and Pony (14 and under) brackets started their game play June 19. Teams in the Pinto (8 and under), Bronco (11 and under) and Pony (13 and under) brackets started their game play June 26-27.

The 6U Shetland division, the youngest of the bunch, plays the shortest series, and the La Jolla Shetland All-Stars went undefeated and advanced directly to the West Zone World Series in Simi Valley starting July 15.

Shetland coach Rob Robinson said the players’ talent, character and love of the game have carried them this far and will continue to at the next level.

“Their talent is undeniable,” he said. “They’ve earned the nickname the ‘Bomb Squad’ due to their heavy bats. But their character is what makes them champions. They are confident and compassionate and the most focused group of 6-year-olds I have ever seen, at least when they are on the baseball field. When it’s game time, they lock in as a team. We focus on working together and helping each other and they have taken to that. They play for each other.”

By being undefeated, they were able to bypass playing in the Super Regionals to qualify for the World Series.

“No 6U team from La Jolla has ever survived the Super Regionals and advanced to the West Zone World Series,” Blumenthal said. “That all changed when La Jolla became Southwest Regional champions and advanced directly to the World Series.”

The World Series features 16 teams in Pony Baseball’s West Zone, which includes 14 states.

The La Jolla Pinto 7U team also is headed to the World Series in Moreno Valley. Due to the lower number of participants, all the teams in that bracket qualified. Still, Blumenthal called the La Jolla team “one of our most improved groups.”

In the second weekend of play, Pinto 8U also secured a World Series spot. The team defeated La Costa Blue 16-2, then rallied from a 7-0 deficit to beat Carlsbad Purple, 13-7.

The Mustang 9U team, after handily defeating Escondido 12-1 and La Costa 18-1, played its last local game June 25. Though the team lost, it proceeded to the Super Regionals by placing third in the Regionals.

The 10U Mustangs won the one game they played the first week and returned to action June 26, beating North City 16-0. One more win on June 29 will advance the team to the Super Regionals in Escondido.

The Bronco 11U team has made a habit of narrow victories in the tournament — 5-4 against Escondido, 13-12 against La Costa and 5-4 over North City — to advance to the Super Regionals.

The 12U Broncos will have a chance June 28 to secure a spot in the Super Regionals.

The 13U Pony team swept a doubleheader June 27 to become regional champion and make the Super Regionals. “On the backs of high-quality pitching and some timely hits, La Jolla defeated Tecolote, 6-3 and 4-1, to earn La Jolla their second regional championship during the past week,” Blumenthal said.

“To say it has been a summer to remember for LJYB’s teams would be a vast understatement,” he said. ◆