The Eastlake Little League 11U All-Stars can feel pretty special about their season. After all, 320 teams started the journey to this year’s Southern California Division III state championship tournament.
Following Thursday’s 11-4 victory against Upland Foothill Little League in Upland, Eastlake’s spunky squad was the lone remaining undefeated team.
Eastlake Little League makes history for the second time in recent years. The league’s 12U All-Star team won the Southern California Division III state championship en route to winning the United States Division at the 2013 Little League World Series.
Now, Eastlake’s 11U All-Stars – 11-0 in postseason play -- can now unfurl their own state championship banner.
The Division III level is the farthest teams at the 10U and 11U levels can advance in Little League baseball.
Interestingly, all three Eastlake Little League teams that qualified for this year’s Division III tournament were in action on Thursday.
All won critical games.
The 10U All-Star team defeated Section 2 champion Encino, 7-5, in an elimination game at Palmdale Little League to advance to Saturday’s division championship game.
The 12U All-Star team defeated Section 5 champion Long Beach, 19-3, in another elimination game at Long Beach Little League, capturing the contest in a shortened four-inning format to remain in contention for the division banner.
“I am extremely proud of all three of our teams,” Eastlake Little League President Mark Robertson said. “The 10s are grinders. They show up and can beat you in four innings or they keep you on the edge of your chair and grind out a win in a close game.
“The 11s have been solid since the District 42s tournament. They come to compete and have not lost a single game. They play sound baseball from top to bottom.
“The 12s are showing some true tenacity. They lost a heart breaking game to Santa Margarita in extra innings. This forced them in the losers bracket with a long road ahead of them. They have relied on the entire team to show up and make plays.
“I believe in all of our teams, from the kids to the coaching staff to the parents. It is taking a combined group of people to keep all three of these teams focused on the prize at the end of the road.
Lastly, all of these kids are also dealing with being in school and getting homework done. This is an extra stress that a lot of other teams do not have. The Chula Vista and Sweetwater school districts started school last week. Parents are juggling work, school, games and practice all at once. Without the parents' dedication none of our teams could compete in these tournaments.
“Hopefully this weekend brings more championships to Eastlake and District 42.”
Eastlake finished 5-0 at the Division III tournament. The California District 42 and Section 7 champions outscored their opponents 51-15 en route to claiming their history-making division championship.
In Thursday’s game, Trevor Adame led Eastlake with two hits while Derreck Borruel recorded four RBI and pitched six innings with five strikeouts to pick up the win.
Bourrel was on his A-game with 19 first-pitch strikes.
Ivan Murillo drove in two runs while Adrian Flores and Charlie Singleton each drew a pair of walks.
Eastlake never trailed in the game, scoring twice in the top of the first inning and once in the top of the second inning to take a 3-0 lead.
But Section 3 champion Upland Foothill stormed back with three runs of its own in the bottom of the second inning to tie the game. But Eastlake’s sluggers would not be denied the Southern California championship after spinning the diamond around with eight runs in the top of the third inning to lead 11-3.
Upland Foothill scored its last run in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Eastlake out-hit Upland Foothill 8 to 7. Upland Foothill did not help its own cause by committing three errors. Eastlake was charged with one error in the game.
Players currently rostered on the SoCal championship Eastlake team include Singleton, Flores, Adame, Kain Cruz, Johnny Huerta, Matty Duran, Brody Wells, Noah Libed, Murillo, Rafa Perez, Borruel, Max Radovan and Tommy Del Villar
Logan Caldwell, who has since moved out of state, helped the team win the Section 7 championship.
Eastlake opened the Division III tournament by pounding Section 10 champion Aliso Viejo, 14-1, on July 22.
Eastlake defeated Section 8 champion Vineyard, 9-6, in a winners bracket game on July 20 and bested Section 6 champion Encinitas, 9-2, in another winners bracket game on July 23.
Eastlake topped Section 1 champion Thousand Oaks, 8-2, on Tuesday in the winners bracket final to earn a berth in Thursday’s state championship game.
Section 3 champion Upland Foothill defeated Encinitas, 10-9, in an elimination game on Tuesday and hung a 4-2 loss on Thousand Oaks in Wednesday’s elimination bracket final to reach the championship game.
Libed had two hits and pitched three-and-one-third innings to help lead Tuesday’s winning effort for Eastlake while Borruel collected three RBI.
Cruz pitched two-and-one-third innings and struck out three batters in his time on the mound.
Eastlake plated six runs in the bottom of the second inning to break a 1-1 tie added one run in the bottom of the fourth inning to build a commanding 8-1 lead.
Thousand Oaks scored once in the top of the fifth to close out scoring in the game.
Eastlake finished the game with six hits and one error while holding Thousand Oaks to four hits.
The Section 7 champions proved they were a team to contend with from the first pitch in the Division III tournament.
Eastlake scored three runs in the top of the second inning, two runs in the top of the third inning and tacked on three more runs in the top of the fourth inning to take an 8-0 lead in its opening game against Aliso Viejo.
Eastlake battered Aliso Viejo for six runs in the top of the fifth inning to take a 14-1 lead and end the game after five innings due to the mercy rule.
Murillo led the Eastlake offense with three hits while Borruel led the team with three RBI.
Borruel and Libed each registered two hits while Cruz reached base twice on walks.
Murillo finished the game with two RBI while Perez drove in one run.
Libed recorded four strikeouts in three-and-two-thirds innings on the mound. He threw 10 first pitch strikes. Cruz pitched one-and-one-third innings and struck out two batters.
Eastlake improved to 2-0 in divisional play after holding on to beat Vineyard. The teams combined for 18 this and 15 runs in the high scoring contest. Eastlake rapped out 13 hits to five by Vineyard. Each team committed two fielding errors.
Eastlake opened the game with a 2-0 lead but trailed, 3-2, after two innings. Eastlake regained the advantage on the scoreboard with two runs in the top of the third inning to go in front 4-3.
But Vineyard came back to score one run in the bottom of the inning to tie the teams 4-4 through three innings.
Eastlake broke open the game by scoring five runs in the top of the fourth inning to lead 9-4.
But Vineyard scored one run in the bottom of the fourth inning and added another run in the bottom of the fifth inning to close the game to two runs.
Neither team scored in the sixth inning, leading to a final Eastlake victory.
Murillo led all players in the game with three hits while Duran and Cruz each collected two hits. Duran, Del Villar and Huerta each drove in two runs to highlight the Eastlake attack.
Singleton pitched four innings and recorded 12 first pitch strikes. Borruel and Cruz each recorded two strikeouts in relief work.
Eastlake won the battle of San Diego County by out-hitting Encinitas 10 to 6 and outscoring the North County squad 9-2 to advance to Tuesday’s winners bracket final.
Libed led the Section 7 champions, who improved to 9-0 in postseason play, with three hits and drove in a team-high five runs.
Borruel had two hits, collected three RBI and pitched five-and-one-third innings. He struck out two batters in the contest but remained on top of his game with 14 first pitch strikes.
Eastlake took control of the game by scoring three runs in the bottom of the second inning. Each team scored a run in the third inning to put Eastlake in front 4-1 on the scoreboard.
Encinitas narrowed the score to 4-2 with a run in the top of the fifth inning but Eastlake came back in the bottom of the frame with five runs of its own to put the game out of reach.
Eastlake did not commit an error in the game.
All tallied, in the 11 games played, by Eastlake hit a total of 27 home runs, scored 123 runs and allowed only 26 runs, having a combined score of 123-26.
Tre Edwards, who is playing in just his third year of organized baseball (football had been his primary sport of choice), drove in six runs with two home runs, including a two-run home and a grand slam, to propel Eastlake to its run-rule win on Thursday.
Edwards, who wears Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays’ No. 24 jersey and plays center field like Mays, homered in the second inning and hit his grand slam in the third inning as Eastlake piled up the offense against Long Beach.
Eastlake slammed five home runs in the second inning to take firm control of the contest with a 9-0 lead. Chase Taylor, Edwards, Esteban Garcia, Haiden Sanchez and Hunter Stencil all homered in the inning.
Sanchez hit two home runs in the game, including one in the fourth inning.
Long Beach scored three runs in the third inning to get back in the game but it wasn’t nearly enough. Eastlake scored five times in the third inning and added five more runs in the fourth inning to complete the rout.
Stencil followed Edwards on the team RBI list with four while Sanchez had three.
Eastlake rapped out a total of 14 hits. Mikey Rocha went three-for-three, Chase Taylor went two-for-two, as did Sanchez and Edwards.
Taylor pitched two innings, striking out four batters. Isaiah Lane followed in relief and Nico Libed closed out the contest.
Eastlake (9-1 in postseason play) is now 2-0 in elimination games but must win another elimination contest to climb back into contention to win the division championship.
“We were fortunate to win these two game to make it to Saturday, and if we win on Saturday we face a tough task with a double-header on Sunday,” Eastlake manager Adam Villarreal explained.
“But we’ve taken the motto of the 2013 Eastlake team that made it to the Little League World Series – ‘Find a Way’ – and echoed it with that same sentiment on this team.
“We’ve clawed our way back into this thing where we might actually win it.”
Villarreal said positive thinking has proved to be the team’s best tactics after dropping a 9-8 decision in eight innings to Section 10 champion Santa Margarita in last Sunday’s winners bracket game.
“The motto has been to keep playing our game and pounding the rock,” the Eastlake manager said. “If you keep pounding the rock, eventually it’s going to break.
“Our bread and butter is our ability to hit. We really didn’t do that in the first elimination game. Our pitching and defense carried us in that game.
“But now, after winning the second elimination game, it allowed us to regroup with our pitching. We have all our pitching available for this weekend.
“When you face adversity like this, the ability of the kids to play for each other makes for a great team attitude.”
Eastlake, which can finish no worse than third in the tournament, would like nothing better than to get a championship rematch against Santa Margarita. The District 42 champions didn’t play very well defensively or didn’t have a particularly great pitching effort in the teams’ first meeting.
Eastlake spotted Santa Margarita a 5-0 lead in the top of the first inning. A throwing error that allowed two runs to score proved costly. Later in the game, two hit batsmen with the bases loaded brought in Santa Margarita’s seventh and eighth runs in the contest.
Eastlake rallied with a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the game, 8-8. Eastlake then placed a runner on second base.
“I thought we might win it right there but the next batter got out,” Villarreal noted.
For those who have attended the team’s games this summer, the Eastlake 12U All-Stars do have a good luck charm working in their favor.
Prior to each game, the team huddles with a broken bat handle while performing a team cheer. During the game, the handle is then hung on the dugout fence, with the bottom end facing the field.
Sweetwater Valley Little League’s 12U All-Stars displayed their monkey mascot in the same manner en route to advancing to the 2015 Little League World Series.
Eastlake’s charmed bat handle might provide just enough mojo to get there as well. Where there's willpower, there's a way, of course.
Eastlake captured its fourth consecutive elimination bracket game victory on Thursday after losing its tourney opener.
Ryan Garcia led Eastlake with three RBI in Thursday’s must-win contest while Isaiah Cook led Eastlake with two hits. Cook also drove in one run.
Stevie Cabral pitched four innings and recorded seven strikeouts to lead the winning effort on the mound.
Eastlake built a 6-0 lead in the contest but nearly saw it evaporate after champion Encino rallied with five runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. But Eastlake managed to tack on one more run in the top of the sixth inning to win by two runs.
Eastlake will face Section 10 champion Santa Margarita in Saturday’s championship game. Eastlake must defeat Santa Margarita on Saturday and win a rematch in a potential double-elimination game on Sunday to win the state title.
Encino finished third in the 10-team divisional field. Eastlake is guaranteed no worse than a second-place finish.
Dante Millan led Eastlake with four hits while Cabral drove in four runs in Wednesday's 13-7 elimination game win over Section 9 champion Fontana Community, the team that topped Eastlake, 11-10, in the teams' tourney opener. Garcia and Millan each picked up three RBI in Wednesday's victory while Cabral collected two hits. Libed and Adrik Sanchez each pitched three innings.
Eastlake battled back from a 6-2 deficit in the first inning by scoring three runs in each of the third and fourth innings and plating more five runs in the sixth inning. The teams combined for 27 hits (14 by Eastlake) and seven errors (five by Eastlake).
Eastlake shut out Section 9 champion Yucaipa Valley National, 10-0, on Tuesday as Austin Stroberg collected three RBI and both Cook and Cabral banged out three hits in support of pitchers Aiden Flores and Sanchez.
Eastlake pushed across four runs in the first inning and then ended the game in the fourth inning by storming across six runs to complete the run-rule victory. Flores had three strikeouts in two-plus innings.
Eastlake topped Section 5 champion Tustin Western, 11-1, on Monday to record its first tournament win. Cabral and Libed each drove in two runs while Cook and Garcia each had two hits. Cabral struck out five batters in two-and-two-thirds innings.
Eastlake out-hit Tustin Western 10-2 and closed the run-rule win with six runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.
Eastlake's opening game in the 10-team tournament went down to the final play, with Fontana Community pulling out the one-run victory.
Flores had three RBI in the loss while Flores and Cabral each had three hits.
Eastlake takes a 12-2 postseason record into Saturday's championship game.
Eastlake 12s win again, advance to Division III championship game
Eastlake Little League's 12U All-Star team won its third consecutive elimination game at the Southern California Division III tournament, defeating Section 3 champion La Verne, 11-3, on Saturday to advance to Sunday's championship game.
Section 7 champion Eastlake, now 10-1 in postseason play, will face Section 10 champion Santa Margarita at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Eastlake will need to win that game, plus an ensuing double-elimination game scheduled for 5 p.m., in order to win the state title and advance to the West Region championship tournament next week in San Bernardino.
Santa Margarita needs to win just one game to capture the Division III championship; Eastlake must win both games in the championship series double-header.
The California District 42 champions battled adversity in Saturday's contest as La Verne took a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
But Eastlake regrouped to take a 4-3 lead on a single by Isaiah Lane in the second inning. La Verne would not score the rest of the way as the bats came to life for the Section 7 champions.
In the closing innings, Lane belted a home run to increase Eastlake's lead to 8-3 and Hunter Stencil followed with a long three-run home run to make the score 11-3 in Eastlake's favor.
La Verne's coaching staff, having heard to Stencils' propensity for the long ball, intentionally walked him twice at bat. However, with runners on first and second bases when Stencil strode to the plate the next time, La Verne's pitcher was forced to pitch to Stencil instead of issuing another free pass to load the bases.
Stencil responded with the three-run home run.
Nico Libed started the game and worked through some early wildness. Tre Edwards pitched the sixth inning. It is believed this was the first time that Edwards had pitched in an All-Star game; certainly, it was the first time he had done so this summer.
Another key point in the game came in the middle innings when La Verne had the bases loaded with one out. The La Verne batter hit a screamer toward first base that the Eastlake first baseman grabbed and then stepped on the bag to double up the runner.
Lane and Stencil each collected three RBI in the game to lead Eastlake. Libed, Stencil and Lane each had two hits.
Libed pitched five innings with five strikeouts.
The Eastlake players are obviously pumped up for Sunday's potential championship double-header.
"It's exciting," Lane admitted to a KUSI-TV news crew on site. "If we win, then we go to San Bernardino. But we've got to take one game at a time. They (Santa Margarita) are a great team. We will have to play hard and come out on top."
Santa Margarita handed Eastlake its lone postseason loss so far, coming in a second-round winners bracket game last Sunday, 9-8 in eight innings.
If Santa Margarita can duplicate that victory, the Section 10 champions will win the Division III championship and instead advance to San Bernardino -- one step away from the Little League World Series in South Williamsport, Pa.
All three Eastlake teams to qualify for this year's Division III tournament advanced to the championship game.
In the 10U Southern California Division III championship game Saturday at Palmdale Little League between Section 10 champion Santa Margarita and Section 7 champion Eastlake, Santa Margarita pulled out an 8-6 victory to win this year's state title.
Eastlake, which battled back through the elimination bracket after losing its first game at the divisional tournament, finished postseason play with a final 12-3 record.
The championship banner was the third for Santa Margarita this summer.
Ryan Garcia led Eastlake with three hits in Saturday's game while Aiden Flores had two hits and drove in two runs.
Stevie Cabral also had two hits for Eastlake. Flores pitched five-and-one-third innings, throwing 13 first-pitch strikes in the loss.
The Eastlake 11U All-Stars defeated Section 3 champion Upland Foothill, 11-4, last Thursday to win the Southern California championship title.
Eastlake 12s settle for second place at SoCal finals, trail ends to 2017 Little League World Series
It was a tough task but Eastlake Little League's 12U All-Star team did the best it could by staving off elimination three times to reach Sunday's Southern California Division III championship game. However, the trail to the Little League World series finally ended with a 10-8 loss to Santa Margarita, which now advances to the upcoming Little League World Series West Region tournament in San Bernardino.
Eastlake held out a chance to make it to the San Bernardino tournament themselves but had to defeat Santa Margarita twice on Sunday in the double-elimination tournament.
Eastlake finishes postseason play 10-2 (4-2 in the divisional tournament). Both losses were to Section 10 champion Santa Margarita.
Hunter Stencil had two hits and drove in four runs to key the Eastlake offense in Sunday's championship game. Mikey Rocha rapped out three hits while Daniel Mora contributed two hits to the Eastlake offensive attack. Nico Libed had two RBI in the game.
Rocha pitched three-and-two-thirds innings with four strikeouts. Mora struck out two batters while serving duty on the hill. Rocha delivered 14 first-pitch strikes while Mora registered five first-pitch strikes.
Santa Margarita will open West Region tournament play with an Aug. 6 game against Nevada.
Sunday's championship game was one filled with a lot of "what could have beens."
Eastlake’s crew played hard, but didn’t quite come out on top. But it was not for a lack of effort.
Eastlake opened up an early 5-0 lead on a two-run home run by Libed and later broke a tie to go up, 6-5, on a home run by Jeremiah Cook.
Prior to Libed's homer, Rocha drove in Eastlake's first riun with a TBI single and Stencil brought in two more runs with another single to increase the lead to 3-0.
But Santa Margarita also showed it could also play long ball, rallying to take a 10-6 lead. Stencil sent one last ball over the fence for two late runs. But the season finally ran out on the District 42 champions, who were without their lucky charm dangling in its usual location in plain sight.
Players spoke about the sense of brotherhood on the team that made it so successful this summer.
“I thought we would win, I thought we could put up a battle,” Sebastian Espinoza told a KUSI-TV news crew on site after the game. “We hit bombs in practice; we hit bombs in the game. We’re a real good hitting team. We win together; we lose together. Just being teammates got us this far. It’s been amazing.”
Indeed it was, and now it's finally over.
Southern California Division III Tournaments
10U All-Star Division
At Palmdale Little League
Friday, July 7
Fontana Community (Section 8) 5, Dos Pueblos (Section 1) 3
Yucaipa Valley National (Section 9) 4, Tustin Western (Section 5) 3
Saturday, July 22
Encino (Section 2) 7, La Verne (Section 3) 3
Santa Margarita (Section 10) 23, Allied Gardens (Section 6) 3
Fontana Community 11, Eastlake (Section 7) 10
Yucaipa (Section 9) 9, Manhattan Beach (Section 4) 1
Sunday, July 23
Winners bracket games: Encino 6, Fontana Community 2; Santa Margarita 10, Yucapia 8
Elimination games: Tustin Western 11, La Verne; Allied Gardens 14, Dos Pueblos 2
Monday, July 24
Elimination game: Eastlake 11, Tustin Western 1
Elimination game: Allied Gardens 11, Manhattan Beach 1
Tuesday, July 25
Elimination game: Eastlake 10, Yucapia Valley National 0
Elimination game: Fontana Community 4, Allied Gardens 1
Wednesday, July 26
Elimination game: Eastlake 13, Fontana Community 7
Winners bracket final: Santa Margarita 5, Encino 4
Thursday, July 27
Elimination bracket final: Eastlake 7, Encino, 5 (loser finishes third in the tournament)
Saturday, July 29
Championship game: Santa Margarita 8. Eastlake 6
Note: Santa Margarita wins Southern California Division III championship
11U All-Star Division
At Upland Foothill Little League
Thursday, July 20
Sherman Oaks (Section 2) 11, La Mirada (Section 5) 3
Eastlake (Section 7) 14, Aliso Viejo (Section 10) 1
Friday, July 21
Thousand Oaks (Section 1) 15, Rivera (Section 4) 7
Encinitas (Section 6) 11, Eastvale (Section 9) 0
Saturday, July 22
Elimination game: Eastvale (Section 9) 9, Rivera (Section 4) 4
Elimination game: Aliso Viejo (Section 10) 8, La Mirada (Section 5) 2
Winners bracket: Eastlake (Section 7) 9, Vineyard (Section 8) 6
Winners bracket: Upland Foothill (Section 3) 15, Sherman Oaks (Section 2) 1
Sunday, July 23
Elimination game: Sherman Oaks 15, Aliso Viejo 6
Elimination game: Vineyard 17, Eastvale 7
Winners bracket game: Eastlake 9, Encinitas 2
Winners bracket: Thousand Oaks 11, Upland Foothill 7
Monday, July 24
Elimination game: Encinitas 7, Sherman Oaks 5
Elimination game: Upland Foothill 5, Vineyard 3
Tuesday, July 25
Elimination game: Upland Foothill (Section 3) 10, Encinitas (Section 6) 9
Winners bracket final: Eastlake (Section 7) 8, Thousand Oaks (Section 1) 2
Wednesday, July 26
Elimination bracket final: Upland Foothill (Section 3) 4, Thousand Oaks (Section 1) 2 (loser finishes third in the tournament)
Thursday, July 27
Championship game: Eastlake (Section 7) 11, Upland Foothill (Section 3) 4
Note: Eastlake wins Southern California Division III state championship
12U All-Star Division
At Long Beach Little League
Wednesday, July 19
Santa Margarita (Section 10) 6, Goleta Valley (Section 1), 2
Northridge City (Section 2) 10, Orangecrest (Section 9) 3
Thursday, July 20
Eastlake (Section 7) 7, Rolling Hills (Section 4) 2
La Verne (Section 3) 5, Southridge (Section 8) 2
Friday, July 21
Santa Margarita National (Section 10) 10, Encinitas (Section 6) 7
Long Beach (Section 5) 11, Northridge City (Section 2) 6
Saturday, July 22
Elimination game: Goleta Valley 8, Southridge 5
Elimination game: Orangecrest 3, Rolling Hills 1
Sunday, July 23
Santa Margarita National (Section 10) 9, Eastlake (Section 7) 8 in 8 innings (winners bracket)
La Verne (Section 3) 12, Long Beach (Section 5) 3 (winners bracket)
Monday, July 24
Elimination game: Northridge City 7, Goleta Valley 3
Elimination game: Encinitas 17, Orangecrest 6
Wednesday, July 26
Elimination game: Eastlake 4, Northridge City 3
Elimination game: Long Beach 9, Encinitas 6
Thursday, July 27
Elimination game: Eastlake 19, Long Beach, 3 (4 innings)
Winners bracket final: Santa Margarita National 8, La Verne 7
Saturday, July 29
Elimination bracket final: Eastlake 11, La Verne 3 (loser finishes third in the tournament)
Sunday, July 30
Championship game: Santa Margarita 10, Eastlake 8
Note: Santa Margarita wins Southern California Division III championship, advances to Little League World Series West Region tournament
Intermediate League 13U All-Stars
Friday, July 7
Luckie Waller (Section 7) 7, Bloomington (Section 8) 4
Sunday, July 9
Luckie Waller 7, Coast Little League (Section 1) 6 (winners bracket game)
Tuesday, July 11
Rancho Penasquitos National (Section 6) 3, Luckie Waller (Section 7) 0 (winners bracket final)
Wednesday, July 10
Holly Park (Section 4) 19, Luckie Waller (Section 7) 5 (elimination game)