“We are the champions” was the song in the minds of the Los Banos Little League 12-year-old All-star team after they swept the District 73 All-star Tournament in Coarsegold.
The Los Banos team won the double elimination tournament Friday night, July 8, by defeating Turlock American 8-5 in a rematch against the team they had defeated two nights earlier.
With their District 73 victory the Los Banos Little League 12-year-old All-stars will advance to the sectional round of the tournament, which begins July 14 in Stockton.
At the start of the Friday game, Isaac Garza took the mound for Los Banos. After surrendering a first inning run, the local hurler shut down the Turlock offense into the sixth inning, striking out 11 batters along the way.
Los Banos came roaring back to take the lead in the second inning, as Colten Kocher, Danny Romero and Brady Copeland singled to load the bases.
Tevin Clay and Fernando Cornejo then each hit doubles to plate four runs, and Jaxon Mancebo singled home Cornejo with the fifth run of the inning and a 5-1 lead.
The locals then upped their lead to 8-1 in the third inning when Kocher and Romero each collected base hits and Zayden Affonso-Stiers drew a walk to load the bases. Clay then doubled home two runs and Affonso-Stiers scored on a wild pitch with the third run of the inning, giving Los Banos a commanding 8-1 advantage.
Los Banos took their 8-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning, when Garza began to tire. An infield error and a walk put two Turlock runners on base. Garza recorded two strike-outs before being removed from pitching, having reached his allotted pitch count.
Affonso-Stiers replaced him on the mound and was not quite as sharp as he had been in his two previous appearances, surrendering a pair of walks and a double which produced three runs for Turlock.
The Los Banos pitcher settled down and closed out the 8-5 victory and the championship with a strike-out, and the celebration was on.
When asked about his pitching performance, Garza said, “My fastball was really working well in the early innings, but as I got a little tired I lost some velocity on my fastball, so I relied on my curveball to get into the sixth inning.”
The local squad became the district champion by sweeping all three of their games in Coarsegold.
In their first game Los Banos defeated Mariposa by an 11-0 whitewash. Los Banos got off to a fast start, when in the first inning Clay singled, Garza drew a walk and Kocher drove them both home with a double.
The locals upped their lead to 8-0 in the second inning, as Romero walked and Mancebo doubled him home with the third run of the game. Mancebo then proceeded to steal third base and then home with the fourth run for Los Banos.
Singles by Kellen Saucedo and Reed Thiercof and a Cornejo double plated two more runs to make the score 8-0 in favor of Los Banos.
Los Banos closed out the 10-run mercy rule victory in the fourth inning, as Garcia and Thiercof both hit singles and Affonso-Stiers cleared the bases with a 3-run home run, giving the locals an 11-0 victory.
In their second game, Los Banos defeated the Turlock American All-star team, 6-2. Los Banos opened the game by scoring six runs in the first inning as Kocher, Garza and Romero all reached base with singles and Clay tripled home all three runners.
Consecutive base hits by Saucedo, Clay and Cornejo then drove home three more runs for Los Banos and a 6-0 lead, which they would never give up.
Turlock was able to score two runs in the fifth inning off starter Kocher, but Garza and Affonso-Stiers pitched the fifth and sixth innings, closing out the 6-2 win for Los Banos.