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Blaze 12s finish second in Salinas
The Ceres Blaze 12-and-under travel baseball team had a successful summer campaign. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

The Ceres Blaze 12-and-under travel baseball team battled back from the loser's bracket en route to finishing in second place at the 2017 Pony Baseball West Zone-NorCal Northeast Bronco Super Region Tournament.

Ceres compiled a 3-2 record at the eight-team double-elimination tourney, staged July 13-19, in Salinas.

The Blaze needed to beat Sierra Valley twice to claim the title.

Ceres failed to force the winner-take-all game as it lost 6-2 on July 16.

The Blaze also placed second behind Sierra Valley at Regionals the previous week.

"They beat us four times in two weeks," Ceres head coach Antone Lopez said. "They were just better than us. It's that simple."

The Sizzle advanced to the finals with a 9-2 victory over Blossom Valley on July 17.

Ceres dropped into the loser's bracket following its 16-6 loss to Sierra Valley on July 18.

"We didn't match up well against them," Lopez said. "They had two hard-throwing pitchers that elevated their fastballs. We're pretty aggressive at the plate. They neutralized us."

Ceres won its first two games at Super Regionals in impressive fashion.

The Blaze topped Monterey (24-0) and Fremont (7-1) by a combined score of 31-1.

Ceres fell two victories shy of qualifying for the July 27-30 Bronco Zone Tournament in Whittier.

The Blaze posted a 17-4-1 record this summer.

Ceres claimed titles in Omaha and Irvine, and finished second at Super Regionals and Regionals.

"We had high expectations this year," Lopez said. "We reached two of them. We won in Irvine and Omaha. We didn't get to the World Series. I'm not disappointed with how we played overall. We improved. That was a plus. It was fun to coach and be around the kids. They love going to practice and playing. They became very close."

Lopez will hold tryouts for the Blaze 13-and-under team in August.

Ceres will play in a fall-ball league in Manteca or Modesto.