The Sunnyvale Junior All Stars are one step away from the Junior League World Series. This past Saturday, July 30th, Sunnyvale defeated Rincon Valley for the second and final time in the NorCal Championship tournament. The Sunnyvale All Stars now head to Bend, Ore. as the representative of Northern California in the West Regional Tournament, which begins Thursday, Aug. 4.
Thursday’s opener will mark the first time these players have played competitive baseball out of state. The 13- and 14-year-old squad won the NorCal Tournament last season, but due to COVID restrictions, the NorCal tournament was their final tournament of the season.
This time they will get the opportunity to play for the right to go to the World Series in Taylor, Mich. And perhaps they will finally get some serious competition. Up until this point, Sunnyvale has been more or less cruising through each tournament. They faced little to no adversity in the District tournament, mild adversity in the Sectionals and in NorCal, three of the four wins were double-digit shutouts, including an 11-0 championship-clinching win.
The Sunnyvale Junior All Stars began the tournament by beating Rincon Valley in comeback fashion 11-8. That was the only close game. In Saturday’s championship finale, Sunnyvale cleaned up their previous mistakes and played nearly a flawless baseball game.
Starting pitcher Howard Cheng pitched five and two-third shutout innings. His defense turned multiple double plays behind him, and the offense worked long, grueling at bats, getting the opposing starter’s pitch count up into the 80s in just the fourth inning.
It was a clinical performance from a Sunnyvale team that seems to have everything one could want in a baseball team. Deep lineup for offense? Check. Deep pitching staff? Check. Stellar glove work? Check. Speed on the bases? Check. High baseball IQ? Check. Confidence? Check. Versatile? Check. Chemistry? Check.
“We’ve played with each other for at least four years together, maybe longer,” noted shortstop and pitcher Jayden Duong. “[Going to Regionals] feels amazing, especially since we couldn’t go last year because of COVID. So finally getting to play in Regionals feels so good.”
“As a team, we hustle and work hard, we do a lot of conditioning,” remarked pitcher, catcher and outfielder Kai Daron. “We’re always prepared.”
The elite preparation doesn’t just come from strong fundamental coaching led by Manager Tom Daron, but the players are hungry to do everything they can to better themselves going into games. Heading into this tournament, the players took it upon themselves to look up footage online of their upcoming opponents.
“A lot of the kids right after the last game started doing homework on the other teams that are going to be in the West Regionals,” chimed the Sunnyvale skipper. “They are looking up the pitchers on Facebook to see what stuff they have, things like that.”
Time will tell if the film watching will pay off for Sunnyvale in their attempt to reach the World Series. Games in the World Series tournament will be broadcast on ESPN Plus.