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Blaze 10s hosting Super Regionals
Pony Mustang double-elimination tournament gets under this Thursday
Gabrial Lopez and his Ceres Blaze 10-and-under travel baseball teammates will play in the July 23-27 Pony Baseball Mustang Super Region eight-team double-elimination tournament. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

The Ceres Blaze 10-and-under travel baseball team started training twice a week with Mike Glines a little over a month ago.

Glines recently retired as one of the most successful prep coaches in California history. He led Central Catholic High School to 11 section titles and five state crowns.

"It's helped," Blaze head coach Antone Lopez said. "He does everything to the basic level. It's all about repetition with him. The kids listen to him. Sometimes, they tune me out. He goes above and beyond. He's the best coach in California as far as high school."

Ceres will host the Pony Baseball Mustang Super Region eight-team double-elimination tournament, which gets underway on Thursday and runs through Monday at the George Costa Ball Field Complex.

"This is the fourth step in a six-step ladder to get to the World Series in Louisiana," Lopez said. "We have a realistic shot at making it to the Zone Tournament in Los Angeles. If we play at our best, we can beat anybody."

Just one team from Super Regionals will advance to the July 30 Zone Tournament.

Ceres, Bel Passi Thunder (Modesto), Paso Red (Paso Robles), El Cerrito, San Francisco Youth, Fremont Pony, Toro Pony (Salinas) and North Bay Admirals (Vacaville) make up the tourney field. "Each team is so evenly matched," Lopez said. "Any one of the teams can win it. If you lose the first game, it's a tough road."

Ceres will open tournament play against North Bay on Thursday at 8 p.m.

The Blaze defeated the Admirals at the Bel Passi Thunder Tournament at the beginning of the year.

"We watch each other," Lopez said. "They've gotten better."

Ceres and top-seeded Bel Passi could meet in the semifinals at Super Regionals.

The Blaze lost twice to the Thunder at tournaments this season.

"Bel Passi is the team to beat," Lopez said. "They're the defending champs. There's a lot of talent for this age group in this area."

The title game will be played on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

Ceres enters the tournament with a 54-23 overall record.

Ceres has played a total of 77 games since opening the 2014-15 campaign last fall.

The Blaze have captured four titles, placed second four times and finished third once.

Ceres' roster consists of 12 players: Wyatt Moring, Victor Alvarez, Ryan Estermann, Diego Nida, Roland Brown, Brock Sanconi, Aiden Taylor, Gabrial Lopez, Zack Martinez, Josh Prestridge, Nick Villalobos and Sammy Wilson.

The core of this year's team led the Blaze 9s to a 30-16-1 mark and third-place finish at Super Regionals in 2013-14.

"This group has been pretty solid for three years," coach Lopez said. "I don't think they realize that some of the things they do are special. You'll hear about a lot of these kids when they're in high school."

The Blaze have three assistant coaches: Kari Abbey-Taylor, Jason Sanconi and Josh Estermann. Abbey-Taylor is the mother of Aiden Taylor, Ceres' third baseman and hitter. Kari was a standout on Ceres High's 1995 Sac-Joaquin Section Division-II championship softball team.

"We have a great coaching staff," Antone Lopez said. "Working with Mike Glines has made us better. Everything is focused on getting the kids prepared for this tournament and it's at home. Usually, we have to travel. It's a big deal. We're trying to make it a big community event."