FRESNO — Tied 4-4 in the bottom of sixth inning with two outs, Hanford 12-60 All-Star Aiden Redding sent the team into a frenzy with a walk-off two-run home run at Figarden Elementary School in Fresno on Saturday.
The hit not only won them the Central California State championship 6-4 over Bullard, but it singlehandedly clinched their spot in the Cal Ripken World Series next month in Visalia. They’re only the second team from Hanford Youth Baseball to make the World Series.
The breathtaking moment was appropriately summed up by Hanford coach Carlos Perez in one word, “Surreal,” he said.
“It’s like you’re playing in the backyard or at the park with your friends and you’re looking forward to getting a big hit in a big game to go on to an even bigger game,” Perez said. “That’s what it was like. You saw 30-year-old men jumping up like a little kid.”
The win was an exclamation on a tournament where the team went 3-1 on their way to a World Series berth. Perez said the kids were confident and accomplished the goal they set in practice, which was to win the state championship.
“It’s not just an individual effort,” Perez said. “It’s parents, coaches, players and great support from my wife. She’s awesome.”
The All-Stars had Gavin Luna, Wyatt Bookout and Dalton Areias named to the All-Tournament team. Redding was named the Tournament MVP after his heroics.
With the regional tournament, Perez said it’s going to help them get ready for the World Series due to the higher level of competition. The World Series is scheduled for Aug. 2-9 at Riverway Sports Park in Visalia.
“I’m positive in these kids and they have confidence in themselves, so I think they can win the whole thing,” Perez said. “For them it’s just believe in themselves and keep working hard and go for success. Winning is the only option in my book.”
Hanford Youth Baseball will host the Cal Ripken Pacific Southwest Regional for 9U and 12-60 teams with games beginning on Monday at the Bob Hill Youth Athletic Complex. The opening ceremonies will be on Sunday with check-in and a skills competition.
There will be a total of eight teams in the Cal Ripken 12-60 Pacific Southwest Regional with four in Pool A and four in Pool B. Hanford, the host, will be in Pool A and has its first game on Monday at 7:30 p.m.
The Cal Ripken 9-year-old PSW Regional will have Pool A, B and C with four teams in each pool for a total of 12. The Hanford 9-year-olds are in Pool A and plays their first game on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
Admission for the tournament games will be $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and children under 12, and children three and under are free.
The Hanford 12-70 All-Stars also continued to showcase the local talent and trend of winning by securing a state title on Saturday.
“Winning the championship was very exciting,” Hanford 12-70 All-Stars coach Rigo Tafolla said. “The smile on the kids’ faces said it all. Some of them had been there last year in the same spot and came up short, so they’ve tasted what defeat feels like and this year they were really excited. The victory was so sweet for these young guys.”
The Hanford 12-70 All-Stars went undefeated in their tournament (4-0) and allowed only four runs in four games. They shut out Kerman 5-0 in the championship game.
In the finale, Noah Gonzales hit a solo home run in the top of the fourth inning to give the All-Stars a 1-0 lead. Christian Wittwer then doubled the lead with his own solo shot in the sixth.
Gonzales and Christian Mendez hit back-to-back doubles followed by Mason Soares’ two-run homer to finish the scoring. Soares also pitched a three-hit shutout with seven strikeouts and one walk.
The All-Tournament team was composed of Hanford’s Jaycob Oleas, Mendez and Soares, Kerman’s Ayden Olivares and Gilbert Acosta, Fowler’s Jason Lopez and Josh Haro, Templeton’s Bo Swan, Lodi’s Tanner Grove and Kingsburg’s Aaron Garcia. Gonzales was named the tournament MVP.
“It’s the team cohesiveness,” Tafolla said about the key to winning. “Every player right now really cares about playing hard and playing hard for each other. We have a group of 13 young players that are really putting in the work on and off the field.”
They are now heading to Rohnert Park, California where they’ll play in the Cal Ripken Pacific Southwest Regional. The regional is comprised of 10 teams with only the winner advancing to the World Series.
The Hanford 12-70 All-Stars’ first game is against host Rohnert Park on Monday, July 15.
“If we continue to play the way that we’re playing and we step up and rise to the level of competition, I’m confident we can go to the World Series and compete at that level,” Tafolla said.