The Second Annual 11U Bronco World Series Championship rolled into Chester this weekend, bringing a few days of fun and baseball to local residents.
The tournament, organized by Chesterfield Baseball Club President Blake Eller, first occurred last summer and included eight teams of both the American and international varieties. That first tournament was a major success on several fronts and this year was no different, as seven teams traveled to Chester for the weekend tilt.
The combatants this year were from Tijuana, Mexico, Torrance, Calif., Chesapeake, Va., Burleson, Texas, Pittsburgh, Channahon, Ill., and Albany, N.Y. All of these teams were vying to be the Pony Bronco U-11 World Champion.
Overall, the tournament was tightly contested; each of the four teams that reached the semi-finals had lost a game. Those teams were Chesterfield, Tijuana, Torrance and Burleson. The final three games were all hard fought, but it would be Tijuana that would emerge as champion.
Tijuana won its semi-final game in dramatic fashion, as Burleson loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh, putting the team in position for a walk-off or game tying hit. However, Tijuana was able to get a ground ball force out at third to clinch the victory and advance to the final.
Chesterfield, whose fans affectionately chanted “CBC,” faced Torrance in the semi-final. Despite the travel for the Californians, the West Coast team had plenty of raucous fans in attendance.
Torrance struck first, as Jared Frew, who walked to lead off the game, eventually got around to score on a wild pitch by Chester pitcher Stephen Baughan.However, in the second game, Baughan led off the inning with a walk of his own, which was followed by a walk from Colin Jones that brought Justin Ford to the dish. Ford ripped a single up the middle, driving in Baughan from second base. Jones also scored on the play, as the ball got away from Torrance catcher Konnor Smith to give Chester a 2-1 lead.
Chesterfield plated two more runs via errors by Torrance, as Jones found the plate a second time and left fielder Eric Hubbard scored on throwing errors. Chester was up 4-1 going to the top of the fifth inning.
Chesterfield got a gutsy pitching performance from Baughan, who struck out five over four hitless innings. In addition, after hitting the first two batters of the fourth inning, Baughan showed resilience to retire Torrance one-two-three after the hit batsmen.
California struck back a bit in the fifth on an RBI single by Matthew Hennessey. In the sixth inning, the team’s offense ignited. After Lawrence Johnson reached on an error, Smith belted a two-run homer to deep left to tie the game at 4. After an RBI single by Collette, pinch-hitter Ricardo Morelos Jr. drove home two more on a single of his own to extend the lead to 7-4.
Jacob Floyd led off the seventh with a single for Chester, but a rally failed to materialize.
Travis Martizia, who won the ERA championship and received a tournament trophy, struck out 11 over seven innings in a complete-game effort for Torrance. His 19 strikeouts over the course of the tournament and 2.08 ERA were both tournament records.
For Chesterfield, third baseman J.T. Creed led the way offensively in the tournament, socking two home runs and leading the team in RBIs with eight.
So the stage was set for the final, as Torrance would take on Tijuana for the championship.
Tijuana scored in each of the first three innings to take the lead 5-0 after four and a half frames. The team used timely hitting and speed on the base paths to jump out to its lead, as Osvaldo and Azael Lopez, Jose Luis Rodriguez and Humberto Ruiz all knocked in runs in the scoring effort.
Torrance struck in its half of the fourth inning, as Smith doubled home two runs. Nathan Krause scored later in the inning on a wild pitch by Rodriguez, making the score 5-3 Tijuana.
But Tijuana got the final blow in on a solo home run by Azael Lopez to make the score 6-3, where it remained for the rest of the game.
Lopez garnered the best hitter trophy for the tournament and set a batting record, hitting .727 over the course of the weekend, including three home runs and 10 RBI.
“This is a dream come true,” said Tijuana manager Jorge Paez through an interpreter. “This is the first time that Mexico has had a world championship at this level, the feeling is indescribable.”
The Tijuana team made a more than 2,500-mile journey to get to Chester to play. This particular team won in an 18-team tournament to qualify to play here. Some of the funds used to get the team to Chester were put forth by the Baja California, Mexico, government and its officials.
After the tournament, the players traded jerseys, which is something that’s also done in the World Cup.
“It’s been a very special experience for the kids to play ball against kids from different areas,” said Chesterfield manager Jim Jones. “It’s just a great experience for the kids to see that other kids all over the world are as dedicated to the game as they are.”
Also in attendance was Dale District Supervisor James “Jim” Holland, who was thoroughly impressed with the kids’ dedication and talent.
“This is a great community event,” said Holland. “I’m just really impressed with these kids. We really need to celebrate them and their talents.”
The tournament will continue for at least one more year here, as CBC holds a three-year contract. The wild success of the past two years would seem to bode well for this to become a Chesterfield County tradition.
For more information on the Chesterfield Baseball Clubs, visit cbcbaseball.org.