If there had been any question as to why the 15-year-old Tri-Valley Babe Ruth all stars deserve to compete in the 2011 World Series, it was answered when the team outscored its opponents 65-1 in the state tournament and 53-14 in the regional tournament.
The all stars’ success is not unexpected either, as this is the third consecutive year they have made it to the Babe Ruth World Series, but going three-in-a-row is an unprecedented achievement in Tri-Valley league history.
Last year, as 14-year-olds, the Tri-Valley all stars won the World Series title, and in 2009 they made it to the championship game before falling short.
Rather than adding more pressure on the players, the fact that the team is the returning World Series champion, set to begin Aug. 20, serves as encouragement for continued success.
“Most of us were there when we went all the way to the championship as 13-year-olds and lost,” said centerfielder and pitcher Casey Soltis.
“It just leaves an empty feeling in your stomach. So to go back the next year and win it all was great. We want to experience that feeling of success again by winning the World Series.”
Winning the national championship for the second year in a row is a daunting feat, but one that both the players and manager Paul Pluschkell believe the team is capable of achieving.
“We’ve got the trifecta,” he said.
“In years past, we’ve always had the defense, we’ve always had the pitching, and now we have the hitting as well.”
Pluschkell said that although the difference in pitching is minimal between the 14-year-old and 15-year-old age groups, the difference in the strength of the batters is significant.
Tri-Valley’s dominance at the plate has been made apparent by the incredible run differentials accompanying the team’s Northern Californian Championship during July and its Pacific Southwest Championship last week.
But it is not the team’s hitting alone that is responsible for its victories. Starting pitcher Sam Nathan said one of the team’s most important features is the chemistry between the players.
Though they hail from more than five different high schools in the Tri-Valley, the players have developed a close bond. Nathan said all team members support one another and trust in each other’s abilities.
“As a pitcher, it’s nice because I can pitch to contact a lot of the time, because I know I can rely on my defense to make great plays,” said Nathan.
Pluschkell believes the players’ commitment to one another translates to productive practices and, ultimately, positive results on the field.
“These kids get along really well and they have fun together, but they’re there for a purpose,” he said. “They’re out there to win games, and it shows, especially in their dedication.”
Though all the players have contributed to the team’s success this summer, several stood out during the regional tournament. Cameron Santos was named tournament MVP and Bradley Pluschkell, Austin Piscotty, Ryan Anderson and Casey Soltis were selected to the All-Tournament Team.
But if Tri-Valley is to repeat its World Series win, it will take outstanding performances from all 14 team members when they travel to Jamestown, New York, next week, where the tournament is set to begin Aug. 20.
Players will stay with host families from Jamestown during the weeklong competition that includes many festivities in addition to the actual games.
“It’s something I’ll never forget and to be able to experience it for a third time is just icing on the cake,” said Nathan.