Watching the Little League World Series on television reminds us how exciting youth baseball is and what great life lessons and outstanding sportsmanship are on display for the world to see. La Jolla Youth Baseball had two all-star teams that played late into the summer tournaments, both of which ended their outstanding post-season run in the Super Region tournaments. The La Jolla Pony All Stars lost to a team that went all the way to the Pony World Series Championship game before falling to Chinese Taipei.
La Jolla Pony opened up the Super Region tournament in West Covina facing West Hills, a team that went undefeated through Section and Region and won most of their games with 15-20 runs by mercy rule. Not intimidated by the hype, Pony pitchers Austin Schroeder, Alex Monell and Michael Campagna threw a combined shutout to upset the top seed 2-0.
Blaise Gimber hit an RBI double to drive in the winning run in the fourth inning to put La Jolla up for good. The La Jolla Pony families chartered a bus to deliver a rooting section on a weeknight in L.A., which added to the fun of the victory. The following Saturday, La Jolla Pony played the best team in the country and learned the hard way why they ended up in the World Series final.
San Bernardino touched the plate five times in the first inning with two home runs followed by 13 runs and two more homers in the third inning. In a double-elimination format, La Jolla regrouped and put on a hitting clinic the next day, eliminating Cypress 13-3. The game was back and forth with five lead changes heading into the fifth inning, sparked by a Trevor Ace home run Everything was working at the plate for La Jolla Pony in the fifth, including a two-run blast by Campagna, a bases-loaded walk by Jesus Labra, a two-run single by Monell, an error and a three-run home run by Campagna. Monell pitched a complete game and had total command on the hill against a solid Cypress team.
With a chance to advance to the Zone Tournament, La Jolla Pony had to play a double-header and a rematch against West Hills in an elimination game. Campagna pitched the first five innings with La Jolla Pony taking an early 3-1 lead. West Hills proved their reputation as an offensive powerhouse as they built up a 10-5 lead.
Schroeder hit a timely three-run bomb to rally La Jolla within two runs after four innings. Unfortunately West Hills tacked on six more runs for a 16-8 final score and put an end to the La Jolla Pony season. The team held their heads high and were proud of their success along the way thanks to manager Tim Scott and coaches Mike McNally and Neil Hyytinen. For eight of the players, it marked their final game with LJYB, they move on to high school baseball: Trevor Ace, Michael Campagna, Blaise Gimber, Jesus Labra, Lachlan MacDonald, Alex Monell, Bobby Murphy and Marcus Scott.
La Jolla 10U Mustang all-star team completed their run through the playoffs with a heartbreaking 9-5 extra-inning loss to West Covina followed by a frustrating 14-3 loss to Corona in the Super Region tournament. The La Jolla nine was in a position to take the first game leading 5-2 entering the bottom of the sixth inning. A hit batter followed by a double tightened the score 5-3. A pick-off and a diving catch by Jared Swerdlow put the boys within one out from the win, but a bloop infield hit, a walk and a double tied the score and forced extra innings. The seventh inning was all West Covina as they ended the game in dramatic fashion with a walk off grand slam. The La Jolla Mustang team was beaten handily by Corona in the final game of the season.
Two weeks ago, 350 LJYB players and their families attended “LJYB Night at the Padres.” It was a great community event and a fun way for everyone to celebrate the end of the 2015 season. As for this writer, this concludes the youth baseball experience for me, with three sons over the past 12 years in the program, and 75 articles published in the La Jolla Light since 2011.