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Blaze 16s advance to West Zone Championships
Blaze 16-and-under
The Ceres Blaze 16-and-under travel baseball team claimed the Pony Colt Super Regional championship on Sunday in San Jose.

The Ceres Blaze 16-and-under travel baseball team battled its way through the loser’s bracket to claim the title at the Pony Colt Super Regional Tournament this past week at the San Jose Pal Stadium.

Ceres also secured a berth to the West Zone Championships.

“The path that it took to get there was unexplainable,” head coach Antone Lopez said. “We were fighting ourselves all week. It shouldn’t have been that hard.”

The Blaze posted a 5-1 record at Super Regionals.

Ceres staved off elimination by reeling off three straight victories.

The Blaze avenged a 2-1 loss with a pair of victories over San Bruno.

“They seem to be our kryptonite,” Lopez said. 

Ceres stunned San Bruno by rallying for a 5-4 win in the semifinals on Sunday.

“Experience won us that game,” Lopez said. 

Ceres erased a 4-1 deficit in the final inning 

Josh Prestridge scored from third base on a passed ball to secure the victory.

“The frustration was building,” Lopez said. “They had all the momentum. We couldn’t have played any worse. It (the turnaround) happened fast. We put pressure on them and they folded. Our kids did all the little things right to win the ball game.”

Ceres bested San Bruno 7-2 in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

The Blaze won by forfeit against Santa Cruz Red in the finals on Sunday.

“They knew they were advancing and didn’t want to play,” Lopez said. 

The Blaze’s two other victories came against Los Gatos (5-3) on Saturday and Monterey (24-1) on July 16.

“On paper after our first game, everybody penciled us to win the championship,” Lopez said. “If we beat everybody easily, we wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much.”

Ceres improved its overall record to 12-1.

“It’s a special group,” Lopez said. “All 12 guys contribute. We don’t lean on one player.”

The Blaze 16s will display their Super Regional championship banner at the George Costa Ballfield Complex in Ceres.

 “We brought back a banner for Ceres Youth Baseball to hang,” Lopez said. “All the kids signed it.” 

“This is why I coach—to see the joy on their faces,” he added. “They’ll remember it forever.”

The Blaze 14s claimed the Pony Super Regional championship under Lopez’s guidance last year.

“For four years, we were always one step away,” Lopez said. “These last two years, we found a way to win. We’re back-to-back champs.”

The 2019 Pony West Zone Tournament will be staged, July 25-28, in San Jose.

Ceres will face Arizona on Thursday in the first round.

The tourney will feature eight teams.

The champion will advance to the Colt World Series.

“Nobody from our area has made it to the World Series,” Lopez said. “That’s the goal. We’re not going to be the favorite. We know that. But we’re good enough to win it.”