Gilroy All Stars shine in Sectionals

Tyson Shaw makes a catch for the Gilroy Little League Majors 11-and-under All Star team. Photo by Robert Eliason.

It would’ve taken a herculean effort for the Gilroy 11- and 12-year-old Majors All Star teams to win their respective Section 5 Tournaments. Both squads had to go through the bottom bracket, and they advanced all the way to the championship round. The 11-and-under squad forced a winner-take-all contest before losing to a superior Scotts Valley team, 8-0. The 12-and-under team reached the championship round and was trying to force a winner-take-all game only to fall to Almaden 10-2 last Wednesday.

“It has been a good ride,” Gilroy 12s manager Ed Lujan said.

A good ride indeed. The 11s team went 3-0 to win the District 59 Tournament before hitting Sectionals, where it won three straight elimination games to reach last Thursday’s final. Gilroy proved resilient until the end, when Scotts Valley erupted for six runs in the fifth inning to win going away, 8-0.

Despite the loss, nothing could take away from Gilroy’s terrific season. The team had several memorable moments, most notably in a couple of walk-off victories. The roster includes Erik Carbajal, Jesus Castro Jr., Abrahm Cid, Diego Enriquez, Eric Hernandez, Reece McKeever, Tyson Shaw, Isaiah Valdez, Nick Valentine, Aaron Van Kerkwyk, Jaden Vasquez, Quin Zanger and Angel Zapien.

McKeever’s solo blast leading off the bottom of the seventh inning propelled Gilroy to an 11-10 win over Mountain View in Sectionals. Gilroy actually trailed 10-6 entering the sixth inning—meaning they were down to its final three outs with its season on the line.

“Reece just crushed the ball,” Gilroy 11s manager Jesse Castro said. “It was kind of cool because the two teams that were waiting to play after us were in the stands watching, and they just erupted.”

Trailing by four runs entering the bottom of the sixth, Shaw, Van Kerkwyk and Zanger all singled to load the bases. Vasquez and Valentine followed with run-scoring singles to make it 10-8, and Hernandez’s two-run double made it 10-10.

“It was unbelievable,” Castro said.

Valentine was the team’s de facto ace, a left-handed power pitcher who mixed speeds well and often dominated teams. Valentine threw a no-hitter in the district championship game, and Castro Jr. scored and drove in the most runs in district play. In addition to Valentine, the team also received strong pitching from Hernandez, Zanger and Shaw.

Zanger went four solid innings against Mountain View, and Shaw went three strong innings against Union City. Hernandez started against Scotts Valley and allowed two runs in four innings before being lifted in the fifth inning. Hernandez pitched well against a potent Scotts Valley lineup that possessed plenty of power throughout the lineup.

The 12-and-under team also had a fantastic season. In the loss to Almaden, Wyatt Mattocks hit a two-run home run. The team’s season started with an undefeated run in the District 59 Tournament followed by some thrilling moments in the Section 5 Tournament.

The roster includes Edward Lujan, Peyton Nellis, Aiden Simeon, Sam Guerrero, Paris Ledesma, Ricky Wilkerson, Mason Dubenko, Wyatt Mattocks, Miguel Flores, Andrew Lujan, Andrew Ceballos, Brayden Martinez, Kyle Recotta and Christian Gutierrez. Gilroy’s run through Sectionals was nothing short of thrilling, as it earned three comeback victories.

In an elimination game against Hollister on July 16, Gilroy trailed by two runs entering the bottom of the seventh inning when Simeon hit a leadoff home run. After consecutive groundouts, Gilroy was down to its last out. However, singles from Nellis and Ceballos set the stage for Mattocks, who promptly hit a towering home run that manager Ed Lujan estimated at 300 feet for a walk-off victory.

“He crushed it,” Lujan said. “He came to home plate and all of his teammates were smacking him in the helmet. The fans were going crazy, and it was fun to see.”

Lujan credited Ceballos for thriving in a six-pitch at-bat, a microcosm of the team doing the little things necessary to advance far in a tournament. Things got no less interesting a night later, as Gilroy edged Santa Clara Westside, 3-2. Down by two runs entering the bottom of the sixth inning, Gilroy had some additional late-inning heroics.

Ceballos led off with a double off the fence, advanced to third base on a Simeon single and scored on a Gutierrez single. Nellis walked to load the bases, and moments later pinch runner Ledesma scored on a passed ball to make it 2-2. Flores followed with a run-scoring single to seal Gilroy’s second walk-off win in as many games.

Last Wednesday, Gilroy needed to beat Almaden—the tourney’s lone undefeated team—to force a winner-take-all contest the following night. However, Almaden proved to be too tough, posting a runaway victory. Entering the Almaden game, Lujan had a robust .526 batting average and three home runs.

Simeon was hitting .381 with three home runs, and Nellis and Mattocks also had round-trippers. Mattocks, Simeon and Lujan formed a powerful three-man starting rotation, and No. 4 starter Nellis came up huge against Westside.

Aiden Simeon contributed to the Gilroy Majors 12-and-under All Star team advancing to the Section 5 Tournament final.

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