The Ceres Blaze 16-and-under travel baseball team advanced to the semifinals of the Pony Baseball Colt West Zone Tournament this past month in San Jose.
The Blaze lost twice to eventual-champion Covina, which secured a berth to the World Series.
“If you’re going to lose, you want to lose to the best team,” head coach Antone Lopez said.
The Blaze compiled a 2-2 record on their way to a top-four finish at the West Zone tourney.
“Playing on this stage, that’s the best part,” Lopez said. “It reveals character because of how much pressure is involved in every game. That’s why we keep doing it. It brings the best and worst out of you.”
Ceres was beaten 8-7 by Covina in the semifinals on July 27.
“They celebrated like they won the World Series. To me, that’s a sign of respect. They knew they were in a dogfight.”Coach Antone Lopez
“They celebrated like they won the World Series,” Lopez said. “To me, that’s a sign of respect. They knew they were in a dogfight.”
Ceres trailed 8-6 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Blaze cut the deficit to one and loaded the bases before succumbing to Covina.
“I’m proud of how we played,” said Lopez, who team led 6-3 earlier in the game. “
Covina knocked Ceres into the loser’s bracket with a 7-1 win on July 26.
The Blaze never recovered after falling behind 6-0 in the top of the first inning.
Ceres bested Arizona 4-0 in the first round on July 25 and Santa Cruz Red 6-3 in the loser’s bracket on July 27.
“It was a grind for everyone,” Lopez said. “You go through something like that together, you’re friends for life.”
The Blaze amassed a 14-4 overall record this season.
Ceres placed first at Super Regionals and Regionals.
The Blaze won the title at the TPR All-Star Classic in Ripon.
Ceres High’s Josh Prestridge, and Central Valley’s Angel Vega, Adrian Garcia, Donnie Tonelli, Gabrial Lopez, Cameron Lopez and Ryan Estermann suited up for the Blaze this season, along with three players from Downey and one from Pitman.
“The core of the team can all come back if they want,” coach Lopez said. “We’ll be knocking on the door of the World Series again.”