La Jolla Youth Baseball Bronco 11s Advance to Zone Tournament

La Jolla’s Bronco 11s All-Star team has enjoyed three straight wins in the Super Region tournament thanks to solid pitching from Carson Greene and Sterling Hayes and supported by a near flawless defense and hitting up and down the line-up.

Coach Dave Hammel has so much confidence in his team that he plays every player in every game. In fact, one of the tournament officials told him that all the other teams play with a set line up and keep three or four players on the bench in case of emergencies.

Coach Hammel liked their odds when everyone gets in the game and they played for the Super Region Championship on Monday night and have already earned a bid to play in the Western Zone tournament later in the week as the No. 1 or No. 2 seed from Southern California.

Carson Greene got the tournament started last Thursday by pitching a 13-2 gem against Anaheim that was called after five innings because of the mercy rule. The LJ Bronco 11s scored nine runs in the top half of the 1st inning with Miles Matalon and Sterling Hayes both hitting doubles with the bases loaded that scored three runs each. In their second game, it was Sterling Hayes’ turn to pitch a complete game on Saturday against a highly touted team from La Canada with La Jolla coming out on top 7-1. In the semifinal game on Sunday evening, the Bronco 11s were really tested by Torrance American, whose ace pitcher kept Torrance on top 6-2 through five innings. It was the bottom of the sixth and La Jolla was facing a new pitcher when things turned around and four straight batters were walked. Not only was the Torrance pitcher struggling to find the strike zone, he proceeded to balk a couple of times to bring in more runs for La Jolla before they completed their comeback with an 8-6 lead. With Greene trying to close out the game in the final frame, he found himself in a jam with runners on second and third base and no outs. The next batter popped out to second for one out. The next batter hit a shot into the gap in left center where Connor Harrison made a diving catch that saved two runs from scoring and he nearly doubled up the runner at second. The game ended on a hard grounder into the hole at shortstop where Sterling Hayes made an outstanding stop and perfect relay to beat the runner by a step, preserving the La Jolla victory 8-6. The win advanced them into the championship game on Monday night and secured their invitation to the Western Zone tournament starting tonight in Walnut, Calif.

The Pony 13s also played three games this weekend in Whittier, but they will not advance to the Zone tournament. Playing at the same time and on the adjacent field to the Bronco 11s game last Thursday, La Jolla found themselves behind 4- 0 after the first inning against Hart. Pitcher Brandon Nance settled down and got down to business, throwing six shutout innings while La Jolla picked up a run in the fourth and sixth innings. Down by two runs in the seventh inning, the LJ Pony 13s tied the game thanks to a single by Chris Caulk and a triple by Luke Bucon. They even stranded a couple of runners and failed to execute on a squeeze bunt to win the game, so they played extra innings with Luke Bucon pitching two scoreless innings in relief. In the top of the ninth, Bucon was hit by a pitch and stole second, giving Max Scott the opportunity to drive in the winning run with a towering double that would have been over the fence in any other field. La Jolla beat Hart 5-4 in nine innings that was underscored with a lot of drama and intensity. Unfortunately nothing like that carried over into the next game on Saturday against West Covina Red, who routed La Jolla 14-1 on a 2-hitter that was ended by the mercy rule in the fifth inning. On Sunday morning, La Jolla Pony 13s were knocked out of the tournament 5-4 by Covina in a back-and-forth game that included a charge in the final at bat in the seventh inning but came up short. Coaches Roy Agbulos, Tim Scott and Mike Nance did a fantastic job with this very talented team and won the Section, placed in the top 3 in the Region and almost secured a berth in the Zone tournament, which has not happened for a La Jolla Pony team in many years.

Last but not least, we cannot forgot the epic run the La Jolla Shetland team has enjoyed, winning the Region tournament and starting their bid for the inaugural SoCal World Series tournament on Friday. Good luck to the LJYB Bronco 11s and Shetland All Star teams!

— Tom Murphy, LJYB

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