Tournaments | Story | 7/10/2019

Molina Stars avenge 2018 loss

Cory Van Dyke        
Photo: David Zamora (Perfect Game)

EMERSON, Ga. – Last year in the 2018 WWBA 15u National Championship, the Molina Stars found themselves in line for a top three seed in the playoffs after a 6-0 start to pool play while only allowing four runs.

However, forecasting the future led to their demise. In the final game of pool play, EC Diamondbacks deflated any potential playoff push for the Molina Stars, defeating them 7-0 to win the pool.

“Last year we started looking ahead,” Molina Stars head coach Jim Triantos said. “We got to 6-0 last year and I think we were looking towards the playoffs and the seedings. Honestly, it was completely my fault. I did it and I never do that. I didn’t get them ready.”

Faced with a similar circumstance this year in the 2019 WWBA 16u National Championship, the stars were aligned as the Molina Stars entered Wednesday’s action with the same 6-0 record. The Stars had already clinched the pool at this point, but still needed a strong showing to earn the all-important bye in bracket play.

New year, new result. The Molina Stars were locked in and focused, defeating MSI 2021, 8-0, to finish pool play with a perfect 7-0 record. The club based out of McLean, Virginia outscored opponents 61-10 over the course of the week, garnering a bye and the No. 8 seed in the playoffs.

It was last year’s shortcoming that has been used as a lodestar for the run so far this year in the 16u WWBA.

“This year, we had a little bit of payback and the kids came through,” Triantos said. “They have played remarkably well and they’ve been resilient with everything that they’ve been through this year. It’s just a great group of kids.”

Along the way, the Molina Stars have used an unconventional style to get to this point. The 16u team is the only team in the organization. It has some pushbacks, such as not having another team to pull players from as backups, but for the most part it’s been a boon for the Molina Stars.

“The kids stick by each other,” Triantos said. “We don’t fly kids in like a lot of other teams do. It’s a team. A team that’s been together for the better part of the last three or four years. We try to be a little bit different in we win with teamwork. Sometimes we may not have the talent of some of the other teams, but we have a lot of heart.”

In Wednesday’s win, catcher David Zamora powered the offense with a 3-for-3 day at the plate with two doubles and an RBI. Zamora is batting .467 so far this tournament as the cleanup hitter, and he’s used a few extra reps in the cages to stay hot.

“I come here late at night to come hit to work on whatever I have to do,” Zamora said. “It’s been working sound for my swing lately. I’m just grinding right now.”

Brock Mercado added two hits and three RBI’s in the triumph. Connor Hale had two hits of his own, including the walk-off sacrifice fly to end the game in the fifth inning due to run rules. He’s batting .389 this week with three singles and four triples, along with a .520 on base percentage atop the lineup.

“I’ve just been focusing on staying back,” Hale said. “That’s been the main focus of my at-bats. It’s helped. Getting on base, even if it’s first, second, or third to get our team on the board early.”

On the mound, Kevin Williams and Nathan Williams combined for the two-hit shutout. The pair needed only 67 pitches to get through five innings.

The Molina Stars are no strangers to success in Perfect Game tournaments. Last year, the Stars won the 2018 15u BCS National Championship that was played in Fort Myers, putting them on the map in a sense.

“Competing in Perfect Game tournaments at this level lets the kids know where they fit in the hierarchy of the best of the country,” Triantos said. “What I’m happy to say is I think our kids can compete with pretty much anybody in the country.”

So what will it take to repeat last year’s success at the BCS National Championship in this year’s WWBA National Championship? Triantos offered a candid response that may indeed be true with the potential of five games over the next two days.

“A little bit of luck,” Triantos said. “To win any of these things you need a little luck. A couple bounces go our way and the kids to pull together and continue what they’ve been doing. Our sticks are fine, it’s having the pitching to get through.”

The Molina Stars will begin bracket play on Thursday morning at 9 a.m. by facing the winner of Tri State Arsenal Scout Team and 643 DP Jaguars 16u Mang.

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