10-Year-Old Pony Squad Tramples Mira Costa to Win Tourney at Field of Dreams
The Palisades Pony Baseball Association season ended in June, but the games go on for the 12 boys on the Mustang Division All-Star team, which hosted and won the District 2 Playoffs last week at the Field of Dreams complex. Pacific Palisades’ team of 10-year-olds trounced Mira Costa 12-3 in Sunday’s championship game, avenging a lopsided loss in an earlier tournament on Father’s Day. It was the ninth win in the last 10 games and 10th victory in 13 games overall for Manager Joe Collins’ squad, which advanced to this weekend’s double-elimination Sectional Playoffs in Torrance. Taking advantage of the home field, Palisades outscored its three opponents 42-21 thanks to stellar hitting and fielding by every player. “These kids have shown a lot of resiliency when they get down,” Collins said after handing out first-place medals to his players along with coaches Wink Winkenhower and John Hurley. “We try to teach them to have a short memory, to come out each and every game focused. We played solid defense throughout the tournament and we were able to manufacture runs. Playing at home helped, too. If we play our best we can beat any team out there.” Ahead 4-2 in the finals, Palisades broke the game open with six runs in the top of the fourth inning. The key hit was a bases-clearing double to center field by Jason Starrels after Emmett Collins had scored the first run of the frame on a throwing error. Starrels came in one batter later on an errant throw to first base, then the umpire called a balk that sent Dylan Damavandi home from third. “I was just looking for my pitch and I got one right down the middle and a little high,” Starrels said of his RBI line drive. “Those are the pitches I just love and I took a rip at it.” Starrels pitched the first five innings and picked up his second victory of the tournament, allowing five hits and striking out two. William Winkenhower relieved Starrels in the sixth and got the final three outs, ending the game with a called third strike to Mira Costa slugger Jack Alexander. “My main pitch that no one can hit is my curve ball,” said Starrels, a student at Village School. “A few players have fouled it off but I’ve done pretty good with it. I struck one guy out with it today. One thing we did differently is we were more patient at the plate. Last time we were swinging too early.” Palisades pounded out 11 hits against Mira Costa after being blanked 12-0 in the teams’ previous meeting. Will Bantle had two singles and a double, Gabe Stewart had a double and scored three runs, Damavandi had two singles, Matt Ursin-Smith had two doubles and three runs scored and Collins had two singles and scored twice. Defensively, Collins made a sliding catch in center field in the final inning and Nick Hurley dove to snare a pop up in foul territory in the fourth. “I saw it dropping and I could tell our second baseman and right fielder weren’t going to reach it,” Collins said of his highlight-reel effort. “Diving is really fun because if you make the catch you’re a hero and if you don’t, well… there’s always another day.” Collins, who just turned 11 and attends Calvary Christian School, batted lead-off for the first time at this week’s tournament and relished the role: “I treat it just like a regular at-bat except that I always take the first pitch. Then I can swing away. I was pretty confident we would win once we scored the first three runs.” Palisades’ toughest game turned out to be last Wednesday’s 15-13 victory over Bellflower. The local boys plated six runs to take a 12-7 lead in the fourth, only to see the opposition score five times to tie it 12-12 in the fifth. Palisades answered right back with three runs and held on, with Winkenhower pitching the last two innings to earn the victory. Two days after hitting a home run against Bellflower, his second round-tripper so far this summer, Winkenhower belted a two-run homer over the center field fence in the first inning to begin Palisades’ 15-5 four-inning rout of Santa Monica. Stewart followed with a triple and scored on a wild pitch. Ursin-Smith doubled, stole third and scored on Bantle’s sacrifice fly for a 4-1 lead. “We weren’t fully prepared in the first game [against Bellflower] and I started getting a little nervous but we got some late runs and won,” said Winkenhower, who led the Phillies to this year’s Mustang PPBA championship. “The Santa Monica game is our best game so far. We only made one or two errors. Winning this [District] is better because in PPBA we’re playing our friends. It’s more for fun. This is a chance to play better teams.” Spencer Howard reached on an error to start a rally in the second inning. Collins followed with a hit and Winkenhower slapped a single to score Howard and Collins. Ursin-Smith’s hard line drive caromed off of the third-base bag into left field and Bantle singled to score two more runs. In the sixth, Adam Snyder walked to load the bases, Damavandi slid underneath a tag at home on a grounder by Zach Lynch and Jack McNamee singled to score Lynch. Needing one more run to mercy its opponent, Palisades got it when Winkenhower hit a bloop single, advancing McNamee to third, and Stewart hit a sacrifice fly. “It felt good to play here on our field–we know where all the bad spots are,” Winkenhower said. “To win in the next round we have to stay focused and cut our errors in half.” Matthew Bergmann, who had played in Palisades’ previous 10 games, was on vacation and missed last week’s tournament. Mira Costa rebounded to beat Cheviot Hills, 10-3, on Monday and also advances to the Sectionals. Palisades will take on the District 1 runner-up at 11 a.m. Saturday at Torrance American Baseball Field. If victorious, Palisades would play for the championship at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. If defeated Saturday morning, Palisades drops to the loser’s bracket and plays again at 4 p.m. that afternoon. Bronco Palisades’ 12-year-old All-Stars mercied Mira Costa 19-7 in five innings in their first game of the Pony Coastal District Tournament in East Long Beach last Sunday. Jonathan Sington pitched a complete game, Cade Hulse had three hits, a home run, four RBIs and four runs scored, Jack and Matt McGeagh each had three hits and Nicky Rivera added a triple and a single. Palisades lost to Torrance 10-3 on Monday but stayed alive with a 10-7 extra-innings victory over Cheviot Hills on Tuesday. Pinto Palisades’ 8-year-olds, coached by David Howard, beat three teams–host Lynwood, Torrance American and Santa Monica–before falling to Bellflower on Monday night in the quarterfinals. Palisades was one of the final five teams out of 18 in the West Zone (Districts 1 & 2).
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