District 35 all star play is underway for west county Little League teams, most notably the defending champion Sebastopol Junior squad.
Led by veteran manager JP Merlaud and coaches Jim Brown and Rob Cantu, the team consists of players Renzo Cantu, Lucas Castleberry, Sammy Francisco, Toby Bush, Liam Drake, Dantae Casini, Jason Ramirez, Marco Conti, Joey Sinigiani, Colton Slack, Emmett Gaberman, Cole William and Nick Wilson.
The SLL Juniors opened tournament action on Saturday at Laguna Park, falling to visiting Cloverdale 12-2 in five innings.
The setback may prove to be just a bump in the road for Sebastopol, which has advanced to no worse than the semifinals in each of the past five years.
“We do not have a single returning player from the 2018 all star team that made such a tremendous run in the (district) tournament,” Merlaud said. “We see a lot of upside potential, although this year’s team is young,” citing a roster of nine 13-year olds and only four 14-year old players.
Saturday’s game started well enough for the SLL Juniors, keeping it close until the roof caved in with a barrage of Cloverdale hits. When the dust cleared, Cloverdale had broken it wide open with four runs, ultimately leading to an early stoppage after five innings (due to the mercy rule) in a 12-2 Cloverdale win.
Sebastopol was back in action the following day against Fort Bragg, bouncing back in a big way to notch a 7-1 victory.
“I’m pleased to say that our team responded with a vengeance against Fort Bragg,” Merlaud noted. “We jumped out to a five-run lead in the first inning and never looked back.”
Pitcher Sammy Long was the man of the hour on Sunday, delivering six strong innings of work, despite being weakened by a recent stomach flu. Colton Slack assisted Long on a key double play in the fifth inning to kill a Fort Bragg threat.
At press time the SLL Juniors were preparing to face the Westside all stars in an elimination game played at Rincon Valley Little League.