The Santa Clara Briarwood Little League Pirates are Major Division Champions for the second-straight season. Last year the Pirates lost early in the Tournament of Champions (TOC) when a nail-biting game ended with a highlight-reel catch at the outfield wall. This year–with four 12-year-old returners–the Pirates are confident they can go all the way.
“The chemistry on this team is phenomenal,” commented Head Coach Emmit Palacios. “These guys rally behind each other. This team has heart and fight. There was a game we were down 9-0 and came back to win the game 11-9, they never give up. As long as there are still outs on the board, they rally behind each other. A good example is my son [Andrew Palacios] hurt his foot. His brothers picked him up and we didn’t lose a beat in the playoffs or in the championship game. Either big hits from someone else, or great fielding from a second baseman who came in and played for him.”
Andrew Palacios, Justin Aldor, Ozzy Cadena and Alan Ramirez form the Pirates’ core-four returners from last season. Between them, the Pirates launched a number of home runs this season, led by Cadena’s nine from the cleanup spot.
“Ozzy Cadena had nine home runs, Alan [Ramirez] had three home runs, Justin Aldor had one home run and Andrew Palacios had three home runs,” added the head coach. “Noah Pang, came through with a big home run in the championship, Nikhil [Somanchi] had a home run during the year, Tyson Mitchell had a home run during the year. Actually all of our players made the All-Star team from the 10-year-olds, to the 11-year-olds, to the 12-year-olds.”
Last season, two of this year’s returners missed the TOC loss due to a scheduling conflict. A once in a lifetime trip to the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY took away from the roster. This season, there is no such conflict, allowing the Pirates to be much closer to full strength as the younger Palacios and Aldor appear to be healed up and ready to go for the TOC opener.
After a luck of the draw first-round bye, the Pirates open up their Champions tournament on Thursday against Mountain View at the neutral site of Campbell Little league.
“The thing I like about our team is that we’re all friends,” commented Aldor after practice on Monday. “We’re just good as a team.”
“Friends, playing catch,” echoed Cadena on what he likes most about the Pirates. “Yeah, friends pretty much.”
“We play really good defense,” added Andrew Palacios. “I play all over, but I prefer shortstop and pitcher.
If the Pirates are able to win Thursday, they will only need to win two more games to become District-44 Major TOC Champions. It is possible they could even meet Santa Clara Westside in the semi-final round if they can beat Mountain View.