LITTLE LEAGUE: Junior softball All-Stars soar into Western Regional tournament

Front row: Karli Martinez, Liezl Clark, Mackenzie Holt and Nicole Villanueva. Second row row: Michaela Decker, Alexis Conlon and Adrianna Figone. Third row: Stephanie Amstutz, Cynthia Del Real, Pati Soria, Brook Loesch and Morgan England. Top: Coach Rayme

Most of the members on this year’s Gilroy Little League Junior (13 and 14 year olds) softball All-Star team remember the heartache of falling just shy of a Little League World Series berth while playing at the Majors level last season.

Those members made a pact, and now 12 months later, find themselves back at the Western Regionals, where a first-place finish gets them to Kirkland, Wash. and the World Series.

The All-Stars begin play at the Western Regionals on Saturday.

“This might be the most balanced team Gilroy has put together,” Villanueva said. “For so long Gilroy relied on its pitching. We have that again, but the defense has been phenomenal and the offense is so flexible.”

To get where they are, the All-Stars wrapped up a Northern California Division II championship last week, trumping Lake Oroville 10-8 in the final.

Due to two convincing victories – 25-1 over Martinez and 17-0 over Peach Bowl – a reputation of being a long-ball team preceded the All-Stars into the encounter.

In the drubbing of Martinez, the team hit three home runs, including a grand slam. Pitching and defense have complimented the offense nicely, and all three came in handy against Oroville.

However, manager Nelson Villanueva said his players switched viable facets and used a small ball approach to score nine of the team’s 10 runs – one run did come via home run.

“(It was) the first time all season that our defense was challenged,” Villanueva said. “We made a few uncharacteristic errors but fought through them.”

The team’s motto “One goal. One dream. One team” Has served the locals well so far.

“We do everything as a team,” Villanueva said. “One person isn’t going to carry us.”

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