LITTLE LEAGUE: Gilroy Juniors cruise to District 59 crown

Preston Longaker gets shaving cream in the face at the Junior All-Stars celebrate their win against Milpitas for the title at the Sports Complex Tuesday.

The Gilroy Little League Junior (13 and 14 year olds) All-Star baseball team made a habit out of getting its job done early en route to the District 59 championship game Tuesday at the Gilroy Sports Park.

Gilroy needed only five innings in each of its previous three games to disperse of its opponents – earning lopsided victories of 31-1, 14-1 and 14-3 along the way.

The All-Stars continued that particularly prompt trend Tuesday and also made quick work of Milpitas in the final, cruising to an 11-0 win and the championship. Luckily for manager Rick Cook, who fell victim to a ceremonial ice water dunking after the final out was recorded, his team’s efficiency left plenty of sunshine overhead to dry his drenched back.

“That was a little on the cold side,” Cook said laughing. “This team is loaded with talent. It’s a great bunch of kids. They practice hard. They play hard. They come out and expect to win every game. We certainly don’t expect to 10-run teams every game, but they do expect to come out on top, and so do I. It’s a hard-working bunch of kids.”

Gilroy raced out to a 4-0 lead after the top of the first inning, and really didn’t let off the pedal the rest of the way.

A one-out single by Dylan McPhillips put Gilroy on track. McPhillips stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. His stay there didn’t last long as Justin Sanders poked an RBI single to make it 1-0. Sanders and Johnny Trujillo, who walked, pulled off a double steal and later scored on an error. Chris Spohr also came around on an error to add to the 4-0 advantage.

“We have a lot of speed. So with that, we are able to do a lot of stuff on the bases, get guys in right positions, create havoc and capitalize,” Cook said.

Three more runs on RBIs from McPhillips, Trujillo and Sanders in the top of the second pushed the lead to 7-0. Zach Gallardo kick started the third with a single to center on the first pitch of his at-bat. Back-to-back walks to Patrick Hsu and Herbie LeBlanc loaded the bases. Following a fly out, Preston Longaker drew another free pass to plate Gallardo. McPhillips followed with RBI fielder’s choice.

The 9-0 cushion inflated to 11-0 by the end of the fourth as Trujillo and Dallas Wilson came around to score.

“I think the biggest challenge for us as coaches is keeping them focus, engaged in the game and working hard for seven innings or for however long it takes,” Cook said.

The run support was plenty for Sanders, who tossed four innings of shut out baseball (three hits, three strikeouts) on the mound. Anthonee Bartholic came on in the fifth and struck out two to record the save.

The team’s summer continues Saturday at the section tournament hosted by Milpitas. The four-team bracket will include a team from District 4, 12 and 44, plus Gilroy. Three wins and the season keeps rolling.

“Every step we take is going to be a lot tougher,” Cook said. “They are going to see the top teams coming out of districts. The play will get much, much tighter now. But I told them, if we come out and play like we are capable of playing then good things will happen.”

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