In postseason All-Star play, there has been no stopping the Robinwood express.
Tuesday in south Mission Viejo, the Robinwood 9/10 team put the exclamation point on an overpowering run through its most recent journey by winning the Little League Section 10 All-Star Tournament. Robinwood accomplished the feat by crushing Aliso Niguel (District 55), 12-2, at Youth Athletic Park.
By winning Section 10, Robinwood advances to its next destination, the 9/10 Baseball Sub-Division III South tournament in Riverside. Robinwood will take on the Section 8 winner, Deer Canyon, at 8 p.m. Saturday at Shamel Park.
"These kids are phenomenal," Robinwood Manager Spike Sojka said after Tuesday's title-clinching victory. "I've been coaching in Robinwood Little League for 14 years and I've never seen this much talent on one team. It's a crazy feeling coaching these kids. They're all great ballplayers."
Robinwood started slowly Tuesday but once it got going, there was no stopping the locals. Offensively, Rocco Peppi went three for four with three runs batted in, all coming on a three-run home run that helped turn the game. Both Andrew Sojka and Evan Manzo went two for four with a double, two RBIs and scored twice.
Robinwood broke away from a 1-1 tie by staging a two-out, five-run rally in the third inning. Peppi's two-run homer and a two-run double off the fence in center field by Jake Vogel highlighted the rally.
The defense also was on top of its game. Andrew Baldwin, Sojka and Vogel shared the mound. Baldwin started, Sojka allowed one run in four innings, and Vogel closed. The trio was backed by key plays, including a line-drive double play by Ryan Gregory at third base, a double-play by Manzo and a diving catch in left field by Brayden Gratzer.
"The kids played flawless baseball in the championship game, making tough plays look routine while not committing an error," Robinwood coach Geoff Kendle said.
In three Section 10 games, each a double-digit victory, Robinwood outscored its opponents, 37-3. In seven All-Star tournament games, Robinwood has outscored the opposition, 74-6.
The Robinwood 9/10 All-Stars are: Andrew Baldwin, Bradley Coots, Ezekiel Franco, Scott Fujita, Brayden Gratzer, Ryan Gregory, Christian Hill, Caden Kendle, Evan Manzo, Rocco Peppi, Andrew Sojka, Shane Stafford, Jacob Vogel. Manger: Spike Sojka. Coaches: Geoff Kendle, Steve Stafford.
Major Division All-Stars
The postseason came to an end Tuesday for Huntington Valley, which was eliminated from tournament play by Aliso Viejo (District 55) in the Section 10 title game, 11-3, at Woodfield Park in Aliso Viejo. Derek Cleland (three for three) and Lane Adams hit home runs for Huntington Valley.
Aliso Viejo got the upper hand in the game by scoring seven runs in the opening inning.
"I am very proud of the boys for never giving up despite the large early deficit," Huntington Valley Manager Scott Glascoe said. "They kept battling and encouraging each other and never hung their heads. They should be proud of what they accomplished over the past month. We won (District 62) and got to the finals of Section 10. Not many kids can say they have done that.
"We had big dreams and lofty goals, but just fell a little short. I am just saddened that I won't have the opportunity to coach them anymore. Most of us have been together for three years, anticipating this All-Star season. Not only are they great baseball players, they are an outstanding group of kids. They have bonded together and created some great memories as they end one chapter and embark on another chapter of their lives. I will miss them."
Huntington Valley's tournament opener Saturday ended in a 5-2 loss to Ladera Ranch (District 68). Cleland hit a two-run home run and Luke Glascoe went three for four, but Ladera Ranch used three solo home runs to get the win. It was the first game in 12 days for Huntington Valley, which hadn't played since winning the District 62 tournament title July 2.
Huntington Valley bounced back Sunday to stay alive in the tournament by edging West Garden Grove (District 46), 9-8. Huntington Valley bolted to an 8-0 lead heading into the fifth, where West Garden Grove scored eight runs off three Huntington Valley pitchers. Huntington Valley regained the lead for good in the bottom of the fifth when Luke Glascoe doubled and was driven in on a double by Austin Heberden.
Heberden closed out the game in the sixth. West Garden Grove had the tying run at second base with one out, but Huntington Valley turned a double play on an infield grounder to end the game. Luke Glascoe again went three for four with a double and RBI. Heberden had two RBIs and big RBI hits also were provided by Will Morton, Nick Morlett and Lane Adams.
On Monday, Huntington Valley got even with Ladera Ranch with a 6-0 victory to keep it in the title hunt. Cleland threw a complete-game, four-hitter. He struck out six and walked one on 71 pitches.