VISALIA — Central California’s run in the 2019 Major/60 Cal Ripken World Series came to an end Wednesday night. The team just ran into a better opponent in New England and lost 5-1 at Riverway Sports Park.
Many of the boys were in tears after the tough loss, including Central California coach Carlos Perez, who thanked the boys for helping his dream come true of coaching in the World Series.
“It’s the end of a good run for these boys and for a lot of them it’s the end of their Cal Ripken career, but there’s 13 boys on this team that can say they played in the World Series and they went out state champions,” Perez said.
The team had quite the run winning the Central California State championship to become only the second team from Hanford Youth Baseball to earn a berth in the World Series at the time. They then went 3-0 in pool play in the 2019 Cal Ripken 12-60’ Pacific Southwest Regional Tournament before falling in the semifinals.
At the World Series, the team left its mark going 3-2 in pool play and earning their way into the championship bracket by finishing in third in the American Division. They end as one of the top six teams in Cal Ripken in the nation.
“It was once in a lifetime,” Central California shortstop David Hilyard said. “Something I’ll never forget, something I’ll pass down if I have kids.”
Central California took its only lead of the game in the top of the first inning when Hilyard drove in left fielder Gavin Luna — who reached by error — on an RBI ground out.
“I was trying to get the ball in play to get the RBI for the team,” Hilyard said.
New England came back in the second inning with a two-run double to grab a one-run lead. Things got worse in the fourth for Central California when they started the inning with a dropped pop up.
After a ground out, three consecutive hits, including a delayed double steal and two-run double, put Central California behind by four runs.
“The mental mistakes and the errors were rolled over from the inning prior after they batted,” Perez said. “They took their bad at-bats out to the field and it affected our play.”
The team got runners on at first and second with one out in the top of the sixth, but back-to-back strikeouts ended the game.
Central California struggled at the plate with five scattered hits and was unable to string any together. They left men on base in four of six innings and were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Central California was also caught attempting to steal twice.
“[New England’s] pitcher [Jack] Ritchie he did a great job,” Perez said. “He kept us off balance with the fastballs and good location and he had a great curveball, great off-speed working on him and we just couldn’t make the adjustments.”
Luna led the team going 2-for-3 at the plate with a bunt single in the third and leadoff single in the sixth. He also struck out the only batter he faced. Right fielder Carlos Perez was named the Ron Tellefsen Player of the Game after making two great catches in right field.
Aiden Redding started on the mound and pitched three innings allowing two runs on four hits with four walks and one strikeout. He worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning with back-to-back fly outs.
“It's a once in a lifetime opportunity and all of us finally got that opportunity,” Redding said.