HANFORD - As various Pacific Southwest Regionals begin play starting this week in Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth baseball, the Hanford 8-year-old All-Stars are the last team standing among teams from Kings County.
On Tuesday, Hanford begins pool play in its age group’s Pacific Southwest Region in West Valley City, Utah after winning a state title two weeks ago in Raisin City.
Hanford head coach David Berna said the team has gelled after early struggles.
The team went 9-6 in its first three tournaments before Hanford went 5-0 at the state tournament to advance to the regional.
Berna said it was a matter of the team having more time playing together.
“We have a good little team,” Berna said. “We can hit the ball. We’ve been playing some good defense and we have a good pitching rotation. They have just gotten better each game and tournament. You can tell they’re having more fun as we started to win.”
While All-Star teams usually play in two tournaments before district play, Hanford found itself with only one tournament. Berna scrambled to find the team one more tournament to prep.
That’s when the team started to build momentum.
During that tournament, the team went 3-2 and advanced to the championship game. They followed that up with a runner-up finish at the district tournament.
Until that point, all six of the team’s losses had come to the same Visalia Blue team.
In the semifinals of the state tournament, Visalia would lose to Tri-Cities. Hanford went on to beat Tri-Cities in the final. Both teams advanced to this week’s regional with Tri-Cities starting in the opposite pool.
That extra tournament was pivotal, Berna said.
“I think it helped a lot,” he said. “We saw that they just needed to play more together and luckily we were able to get in that tournament late. It just gave them more experience playing at that level.”
While the team earned its spot at the regional, its work wasn’t done. Along with practice for the past few weeks, the team has also had to come up with the money to travel to the regional, which is a 790 mile drive from Hanford.
Berna said coaches and league reps went around to local businesses asking for sponsorships. The team fundraised through a lemonade stand and also took donations at a booth during a recent Thursday Night Marketplace.
“We’ve gotten a ton of support,” Berna said.
Centerfielder/catcher/pitcher Jack Barcellos expects the team to do well at the regional.
“I think we’ll do good,” He said. “We have really strong players.”
Right fielder Harrison Grant is excited to travel out of state for the first time as well as continue playing with his team.
“I want to show our team to the world,” Grant said. “I like that if you win, you win with your team. If you go down, you go down with your team.”
At the regional, Hanford is guaranteed four games during the 10-team tournament.
Hanford begins pool play on Tuesday, playing a game a day until Friday.
On Tuesday, it will face Roosevelt (Southern Utah). Wednesday, it plays Scottsdale (Arizona). Thursday, Hanford plays Hunter/Cypress (Utah) and Friday it plays Cerritos (Southern California).
The second pool is made up of Riverton (Northern Utah), Fremont (Northern California), Spanish Springs (Nevada), Tri-Cities and Taylorsville (Northern Utah).
Following pool play, the top two teams advance to single elimination with both the semifinals and championship being played Saturday.
Unlike other age groups, the 8-year-old regional champion does not advance to a World Series.
That doesn’t bother Berna, who said the team is just looking forward to the experience of playing better teams.
“They’re just going to go out and play and see what happens.”
Catcher/second baseman Dawson Berna wants to win.
“We know we’re all good baseball players,” he said. “I really want to bring home a regional championship.”