The Sunnyvale Little League Junior All Stars are one win away from reaching the championship game of the NorCal State Tournament being held in Chico. The Sunnyvale squad secured a come-from-behind win in the opener, 11-8 over Rincon Valley. They followed that up by blowing out the team from Chowchilla by a 15-0 final. A win this Wednesday, July 27 would put Sunnyvale in the championship game on Saturday. If Sunnyvale wins this tournament they would advance to the Western Regional Tournament in Oregon. Win there and they would move onto the Juniors World Series in Michigan. While they are still a long way away from securing any cross-country flights, the Sunnyvale boys are soaking up the experience of getting to travel with their teammates.
“It’s been a fun time together, we get to hangout after the wins, go to the pool and play basketball,” remarked catcher and corner infielder Vincent Kim. “It’s been really fun.”
“We spend every minute of the day together, from practice to pool parties,” echoed middle infielder and pitcher Andrew Sun. “Eating together, just bonding everyday, it’s really cool to get to know each other even better.”
Sun is one of nine returners from last year’s Sunnyvale team that went to the NorCal state tournament near Fresno. While they won that tournament, COVID protocols prevented Sunnyvale from moving on to the Western Regionals. For both Kim and Sun, this current Chico tournament is the furthest they have played competitive ball away from home.
Head Coach Tom Daron wants them to enjoy the experience as much as possible but also has the job of keeping them focused on the NorCal state tournament games.
“They are loving it and we try to make it special for them,” remarked Coach Daron. “We try to keep them focused and practicing and ready for the games, but it’s almost like a vacation for them. The more we advance the more of their summer they are giving up. One of our parents rented a one-acre Airbnb house with a giant pool. So we make that like our headquarters, we barbecue there, they play in the pool, play wiffle ball in the backyard.”
As for the hard ball on the field, Sunnyvale is benefiting from their incredible pitching depth. With pitch count rules, having a surplus of trusted arms has been a big reason for their continued success. Daron says he has “at least seven” pitchers he trusts in a big situation to get the team out of a jam.
Asked to pick a standout performance from all three phases, defense, pitching and offense, Coach Daron noted Sun’s work on the mound, Howard Cheng’s defense at first base picking balls out of the dirt, and Will Hamburger’s offense from the three spot in the lineup.
The depth and attention to detail on the field though is what is powering this squad to go further and further on this journey. Kai Daron, James Nam, and Jayden Duong are three big contributors to the pitching depth, and the rest of the lineup including Joseph Murai, Ren O’hara, Drew Hamburger, Cevan Ozawa Burns, and Jacob Jang have provided positional and offensive versatility to help allow this Sunnyvale team to thrive.