La Jolla Youth Baseball sends 10 teams to PONY Section tournament

By Tom Murphy

La Jolla Youth Baseball

For many baseball families in La Jolla, summer vacations have to wait. A successful PONY All Star team starts with a local Section tournament in mid-June and may last a couple of weeks. LJYB sent 10 teams to the PONY Section tournament. The top four teams advance to a Region tournament where the drive gets longer and the pitching gets tougher.

Six LJYB teams passed muster at Section to play again in the Region tournament. The Super Region tournament begins in mid-July and a few LJYB teams still have a shot at moving on to Western Zone and ultimately — the PONY World Series.

Unlike Little League where only the 12-year old kids play into their World Series in Wil- liamsport, the PONY brand of baseball allows for every age group to compete for a World Series title, and LJYB usually enters teams in nine of these age-specific tournaments.

■ La Jolla’s

Pony All Stars

tried a new approach this year and hired the La Jolla High School Varsity pitching coach to manage the team. Jake Grosz grew up played baseball here so his return to the Pony field was a bit of a homecoming. He was assisted by Scott Montana, Rick MacDonald and John Ace.

They ran high-intensity practices, much like they do at the high school level. The team was a mix of 13- and 14-year-old players, who responded well to the new coaches.

After dropping their opening Section game to Chula Vista South (who won the tourney), La Jolla Pony defeated La Costa 13-4 and Carlsbad 11-3. Evan Benham pitched five strong innings and allowed one earned run in the La Costa game.

In the final Section game, Kenny Hayden pitched a complete game, allowing just two earned runs in a nail-biter 6-5 walk-off loss to Escondido in the bottom of the seventh. Trevor Ace led the team with most hits, pitched a winning game, and made countless plays at shortstop. Michael Campagna hit a home run against La Costa.

With two wins in the Section tournament in Ramona, La Jolla Pony advanced to the Region tournament in Lakeside in early July. They lost to the top seed Lakeside team in their first game and had a rematch against Escondido in the elimination game. Blaise Gimber pitched a gem of a game yet Escondido scrounged two unearned runs to sneak past La Jolla Pony 2-0.

■ The

Bronco Red

team had a tough draw in the PONY Section tournament with a play-in game requiring three wins instead of two in order to advance to the Region tournament. They achieved this with wins over Tecolote (12-3), Paradise Hills (13-0) and Emerald (16-5). Their two losses were epic battles against rival North City that included many lead changes and “web gem” plays in the field.

Arman Sanchez-Mohit led the charge batting .533 for the tourney followed by Marcus Scott at .500, Austin Schroeder at .450 and DJ Lindroth at .400. Home runs were hit by Scott (2), Lindroth, Sanchez- Mohit and Johnny Meyerott. Bronco hurlers were led by Austin Schroeder, Sanchez-Mohit and Aidan Canino. Also contributing on the hill were Lindroth, Justin Tang, Matthew Hammel and Noah Brown.

La Jolla’s solid defense was anchored by Scott behind the plate and stellar plays in the outfield by Meyerott, Tang, Canino, Hammel and Devin Brown. There was an MVP-worthy performance by Sanchez-Mohit against Paradise Hills with a no-hitter through five innings (ending by mercy rule) along with a home run and a double.

In the Regional tournament in Fallbrook, Bronco Red defeated the No. 1 seed Escondido 8-3 behind stellar pitching Sanchez-Mohit and Schroeder. This set up a rematch with North City, who prevailed against La Jolla 10-6.

On July 6, the Bronco Red team played an elimination game against the home team Ramona, with the winner advancing to Super Region in Whittier.

La Jolla took the lead with a grand slam by Lindroth, but Ramona battled back to tie the game 6-6. Down to the wire, Ramona loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh and in dramatic fashion, got a hit to win the game 7-6 in a walk-off. The La Jolla Bronco players held their heads high because they knew they played their best baseball and bonded as a team. Manager Tim Scott and coaches Dave Hammel, Neil Hyytinen and Brian Canino did a great job with these boys.

■ Sometimes a good team gets a bad draw. Just ask the

Bronco 11s

manager Geoff Longenecker. Most of these boys have been playing All Stars together since Pinto and have enjoyed a lot of success along the way. This year they opened the tournament against a red-hot North City team, who ran the table this year to claim the Section banner. In their next game, the Bronco 11s lost to home team Ramona, who also made it to the finals. In tournament vernacular this is known as “Two & a BBQ,” but in their defense, they lost to the only two teams that advanced to Region.

■ Perhaps the most talented All Star team in LJYB this season is the

Mustang Reds

, managed by Brad Kates and coaches Bill Bold and Bill Luetzow. They went 4-0 in the PONY Section tournament, outscoring their opponents 41-12. With an early 19-4 win over La Jolla Blue (who opened with a big 16-7 win over Mira Mesa), they rolled past Ramona Red 8-1, setting up a showdown against their rival Tecolote Red.

La Jolla beat them handily by a score of 9-2, and Tecolote Red battled through the loser’s bracket to face La Jolla again in the championship game, which La Jolla won 5-3 to claim the Section banner. Christian Nava led the team both on the mound and at the plate. His teammates call him “the Matador” which is fitting with only one earned run over 14 innings pitched in the tournament, and he posted a team leading .643 batting average.

Nava was supported by solid defense from Johnny Leutzow, Spence Carswell, Tony Ide, Nathan Latimer and Hunter Kates all coming up with “web gems” throughout Section play.

Jackson Stratton, who has a cannon for an arm, caught every inning behind the plate and threw out every runner that attempted to steal. Connor Hobbs, Jake Bold and Jordan Stahl patrolled the outfield. Every player contributed to their Section championship and No. 1 seed in the Region tournament.

Mustang Red

continued their undefeated streak through the first three games in Carlsbad, defeating San Marcos (17-3), Escondido (6-1) and La Costa (6-2). They entered the Region Championship game against home team Carlsbad, who had one loss and came back through the loser’s bracket. La Jolla dropped their first post- season game 11-7 and in a double header for the title, Carlsbad came out on top with a 5-3 victory. Emotions were running high for La Jolla and these kids haven’t faced much adversity along the way, so this setback serves as an opportunity to regroup before heading into the Super Region tournament in San Marcos on July 17.

■ Another success story comes from the

Mustang 9s

team managed by Mike Campagna. They ran the table in the PONY Section tournament by beating Chula Vista South (9-5), and North City — twice (5-0) and (10-3) to secure another championship banner for La Jolla.

In the Region tournament in Carlsbad, the Mustang 9s dropped their first game to Escondido and came back with a 6-5 win over San Marcos before being knocked out of the tournament by La Costa, who made it to the finals.

■ La Jolla’s

Pinto Red

team went 3-2 in the PONY Section tournament in Ramona with both losses coming against a very tough Tecolote team.

La Jolla showed great ability to perform in the clutch, with strong finishes in a 17-14 extra inning win against Mira Mesa and a last inning 17-16 victory against Ramona, which advanced them to Region. Kinsey Casdin, Dylan Waites and Tyler Boynton led the offensive charge, and they were supported by great defensive plays by Jack Circuit, Jack Stahl and Cole Roberts.

In the Region tournament in Carlsbad, LJ’s Pinto Red rolled over their first two opponents, beating Fallbrook (13-1) and Carlsbad (16-3). They struggled again with Tecolote and lost a close game against La Costa but still advance to the West Zone tournament on July 17.

Rick Boynton is doing a great job as manager of the Pinto Red. Jay Sakamoto managed the Pinto Blue team, who lost two close Section games to Paradise Hills and Ramona Red.

The Pinto 7s team was managed by Mac Armstrong and they were knocked out of the Section tourney early with a tough draw, facing finalist San Marcos in their opener, followed by a 22-19 battle against Ramona. There is a ton of talent on that team and they will be a force next season.

The Shetland

All Stars from La Jolla have a history advancing in their tournaments and this year is no exception. Led by Manager Charles Hartford, these 6-year-old boys have a lot of fight in them. They went 1-2 in the Region qualifier and 3-2 at Region in Fallbrook, scoring a total of 131 runs in eight games!

La Jolla Shetland advanced to Super Region (Pool Play) in West Covina where they went 0-3 against some of the best teams in the land.

■ More information about

La Jolla Youth Baseball