The Colton Pony League 14U softball team relied on a deep pitching staff and a powerful lineup to battle its way to the West Zone World Series Championship after defeating No. 1 seed Palm Desert, 11-4. Colton secured the win by scoring nine runs in the fifth inning. The 10-team World Series tournament was held July 20-24 at Diamond Valley Lake Community Park, Hemet, featuring qualifiers from the west region including the Orient champs from the Philippines.
Colton claimed its improbable championship by qualifying for the West Zone title after finishing third in district tournaments in Colton and Redlands. It was then forced to earn the overall title by entering the elimination round as the No. 4 seed after finishing pool play with a mediocre 1-2-1 record. It meant Colton had to play an extra game. Colton’s Cinderella journey to the title was even more remarkable since its coach Daniel Ramirez had a pitching staff consisting of 12-year-olds who were facing opponents that were mainly 14. Colton finished by going 4-0 in the championship round.
Colton’s pitching staff included Jasmine Gutierrez, Alyssa Fonseca, and Desiree Ramirez, each having a different variety of pitches delivered at a different velocity. After Palm Desert took a 3-0 lead in the first inning of the championship game, Daniel Ramirez used all three pitchers with Gutierrez throwing the final five scoreless innings for the win. Bianca Hernandez went 3-for-4 with five RBIs. Teammates Fonseca and Susana Corbeton also had three hits and Alicia Navarette added two hits.
Before defeating Palm Desert in the title game, Colton had a more difficult time sweeping past Arizona, Washington, and the High Desert. Hernandez also unloaded against Douglas, Arizona by going 4-for-4 with seven RBIs to lead Colton to a 15-7 win. Desiree Ramirez picked up the win and Gutierrez earned the save. Gutierrez also had four hits along with Navarette and Alexia Castor. Alyssa Castro went 2-for-3.
Fonseca was the winning pitcher against Washington (5-2) and the High Desert (7-5), getting Colton to the championship game. Fonseca helped her cause by getting a combined 10 strikeouts. Against Washington she went 2-for-3 with two RBI. Despite his team having to overcome some odds, Ramirez said he expected it to be competitive. “I believed they would finish strong and would be among the top three teams to finish.”
Ramirez told of many outstanding performances his team accomplished on the field, however it was the immense respect that Colton received off the field. “The event that really stands out was the outpouring of support that we received from a few of the competing teams,” Ramirez recalled. “We received commendations on how well our girls were holding up against some of the stronger teams. Even Moreno Valley’s players would sit in our bleachers and cheer on our girls. We returned the favor when they played, even had our girls singing in unison with their dugout. The more support our girls received, the more their confidence grew. Once their confidence was high, they played flawlessly. Moreno Valley girls even asked to participate in the World Series gift exchange with Colton.”
Ramirez thinks that the 2016 Colton World Series championship team will continue playing together for the next few years. “They really look out for each other and have bonded as a family over the past few months. I expect most to move on to high school level, at some point they will face each other on the field, but they will still share the accomplishments that they experienced this summer.”