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August 12, 2022

Garlic City 8U baseball team comes up aces

When the Gilroy Little League Double-A season ended for the 6-8-year-old age group in the second to last week of May, two of the six managers—Jeff Aguirre and John Bowen—wanted to keep things going. 

With no All Star season at the 8U level, it was up to the league’s coaches to organize something so the kids who wanted to keep playing would have the opportunity to do it. Out of that was born the Garlic City Aces, who essentially was the de facto 8U All Stars from Gilroy Little League. 

And the team came up aces—pun intended—winning the 50th annual George Costa Tournament in Ceres. Garlic City went 4-1 in the tournament, including a one-run victory over Hilmar in the championship game on July 3. 

The Aces played as an assembled travel ball team because they couldn’t represent Gilroy Little League in an official capacity.

Ten of the 11 players on the roster played in Double-A this past season. The roster included Nolan Aguirre, Logan Khalighi, Daniel Maquinalez, Rocco Marini, Santos Cabral, Elliot Collum, Henry Maquinalez, Giovanni Martinez, Jeremiah Avila, Camden Walker and Daniel Pires. 

The coaching staff included head coach Jeff Aguirre along with assistants Brian Collum, Eliazar Cabral, Danny Pires, Henry Maquinalez and Amir Khalighi. 

“The kids played great,” Aguirre said. “For the most part, they made consistent plays on defense and that was what really aided our strong performance. It was really cool to see them get to compete at a different level (against other All Star teams).”

The Aces avenged their only loss of the tournament, having dropped a close game to Hilmar in the final pool game. Both teams won their semifinal round knockout contests before meeting in the title game. Garlic City entered the final inning up by two runs, but Hilmar hit an inside the park home run to get to within one before putting the potential winning run on base with one out. 

However, the Aces recorded the final two outs to seal the victory and championship. Daniel Maquinalez earned tournament MVP honors and Marini—Aguirre’s nephew—was the Silver Slugger awardee. Aguirre wasn’t told there would be awards given out so he and his assistants literally had to select the honorees on the spot. 

There was no shortage of candidates to choose from. Marini led the team with 11 hits and hit .688. Pires had 10 hits with a team-best .769 average. Maquinalez hit .438 in 16 at-bats, and Santos scored a team-high six runs. 

Of course, as is usually the case at this age level, everyone contributed. Walker hit .462, Avila .692, Nolan Aguirre, the coach’s son, .615, Henry Maquinalez .438, Martinez .455, and Collum and Khalighi both finished at .462. The 8U level is a coach-pitch tournament where coaches come in relief to pitch for their players if they throw four balls before recording an out on the batter. 

There is a no-walk rule and games have a time limit, though teams often finish the full five or six innings before it expires. The tournament run capped a swift turn of events for Aguirre, who had to assemble a team from scratch because they couldn’t officially represent Gilroy since the Little League organization doesn’t sanction All Star play for the 8U level. 

After the coaches decided they were all in, the process got kicked into overdrive. 

“The timeline got tight,” Aguirre said. “We needed to find insurance for the team, get uniforms and see what families could commit to this because some already had 4th of July plans.”

Aguirre also had to find a tournament to play in, no small feat considering most leagues don’t run 8U All Star baseball playoffs. Aguirre has baseball connections in the Modesto-Ceres area, having been raised there.  

“I started making some calls, got some leads on tournaments and George Costa was the one we got into, which was a tournament I grew up playing in,” he said. 

The Aces had at least one player from each of the six Gilroy Double-AA teams, and Aguirre credited his assistant coaches for helping to conduct practices and providing guidance to the players during games. Prior to the tournament, the regular-season proved to be a productive one. 

“It was a really great season,” Aguirre said. “Every team developed and got better, and being able to take a couple of the better kids and put them together on one team which is what All Stars do was a pretty cool way to end things.”

Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected]

Emanuel Lee
Sports Editor of the Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. PR of 3:13.40 at the 2019 CIM. Hebrews 12:1.

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