Junior Little League: Gilroy reach Regional semis

Gilroy Junior All Star Travis Romero makes the tag at second as Garret Santos backs up the play during the team's championship game against Sacramento Friday. The Garlic City boys won 4-1.

VANCOUVER, WASH.—The Gilroy Junior All Stars rebounded from Friday’s loss to Hawaii with a vengeance. Gilroy outscored its weekend opponents 24-2 in the Western Regionals tournament as it continues its pursuit of a World Series berth.
“I think (the loss) enlightened us that we need to raise our level of play because Hawaii is a very good team,” Gilroy Juniors manager Bob Santos said. “It definitely woke us up that we need to raise the level of our play a little bit and the kids have responded.”
Gilroy’s David Martinez was a perfect 3 for 3 with three runs scored and two RBIs in the team’s 12-2 win in five innings over Montana Saturday. The All Stars, representing Northern California, needed just six hits to top Alaska 12-2 in five innings on Sunday. The wins secured the team’s spot in the Final Four semifinals, which kick off Tuesday.
Gilroy was able to utilize its bullpen, using five different pitchers over the weekend. Santos said his team is unique in that it has six to eight players who can take the bump at any time to get the job done and doing so allows everyone to stay fresh for Tuesday and Wednesday’s key playoff games.
“A lot of teams have a couple dominant pitchers and we’ve got six or eight guys that are very, very good pitchers,” Santos said. “They’re not quite as dominant, but they are very, very good. Depth is one of our strengths when it comes to pitching.”
Gilroy vs. Montana
Gilroy and Montana were locked in a 1-1 tie after the first inning Saturday before the Garlic City guys made quick work of their opponent.
With two outs against them in the bottom of the second, Gilroy’s Garret Santos reached on an error—one of four the team committed—and scored on the next play off a line drive from Marshall Silva. Jacob Longworth took over on the bag for Silva and moved to third off a hard ground ball from Diego Hsu. Neither had to stay there for long, however, as Jonathan Aguilera cleared the bases with a two-RBI double to centerfield, putting Gilroy up 4-1.
NorCal added two more in the bottom of the third off a Travis Romero single, which scored Martinez and Sergio Sanchez.
Back-to-back doubles from Ben Zanger and Martinez scored Aguilera and Sebastian Duarte, respectively, in the bottom of the fourth frame. Connor Villanueva grounded out, but it was enough time for Martinez to score and widen Gilroy’s lead to 9-1.
Montana added a run in the top of the frame to cut Gilroy’s lead to 9-2. A single from Martinez scored Aguilera in the bottom of the fifth. He came home three plays later on a wild pitch for the final run of the game.
Aguilera was 1 for 1 with three walks, two runs and two RBIs. Romero also notched two RBIs.
The red-hot Martinez was in a slump entering this tournament, but Bob Santos said he has returned to the regular season power hitter he knew him to be.
“The first couple tournaments he struggled a little bit; he wasn’t hitting. I knew he was a good hitter because during the regular season he just beat my team up,” the NorCal manager said. “In the third tournament, you could see him starting to come around and then this tournament he’s just really gotten back to the guy who beat us up a lot.”
Villanueva tossed a solid four and two-third innings, allowing just two runs on two hits while striking out seven and walking five. Longworth closed out the game for Gilroy.
Gilroy vs. Alaska
Errors allowed the NorCal crew to rack up an 8-1 lead through the first three innings against Alaska.
Alaska, playing as the away team, took a 1-0 lead in the first. Zanger evened the score when his sacrifice fly scored Santos in the bottom of the frame.
Gilroy had the bases loaded when an Alaska error scored Silva and Martinez. Another Alaskan error allowed Longworth and Villanueva to come home and widen Gilroy’s lead to 5-1.
NorCal added two more off an Aguilera sac fly and a Martinez single in the bottom of the second. The team notched another in the third off another Alaska error, which scored Romero to put Gilroy ahead 8-1.
A walk, single and a hit Gilroy batter loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fourth. Shawn Hernandez sent the ball sailing to centerfield for a two-RBI double. Diego Hsu grounded out, but scored Hernandez to put Gilroy ahead 11-1.
Alaska scored in the top of the fifth, but NorCal got it right back off Jacob Jensema’s single in the bottom of the frame to end the game.
Jensema notched two hits for the Garlic City squad and Hernandez had two RBIs.
Romero got the start on the bump, tossing two innings. He allowed one run off one hit with a strikeout and a walk. Duarte struck out two over two and two-third innings and Santos closed things out, putting up zeros across the board.
Charging into the playoffs
Gilroy will take on Southern California in the semifinals at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
“The pitchers off the two teams that I think we’re going to be going against, they have some pitchers that can throw pretty hard,” Bob Santos said. “We worked on hitting the fastball today and just making sure that we have a good approach at the plate when it comes to seeing those types of pitchers.”