The baseball season continues on and on for the Five Cities 13U Five Cities Babe Ruth All Star team.
On Saturday, the team beat Hawaii in a dramatic walk-off extra inning thriller to advance to the Babe Ruth World Series in Arkansas.
“To make this far is huge,” said outfielder Brody Bottini, who had the game-winning hit in Saturday’s regional title game. “It feels like the biggest accomplishment of my life and I know it is for all of us too. It just feels incredible. It feels like a dream.”
According to the league, it’s the first time in more than 40 years a team from San Luis Obispo County has qualified for the Babe Ruth World Series.
The Babe Ruth World Series will be held in Mountain Home, Arkansas from August 9-August 16.
“It’s exciting,” said catcher Travis Royal. “It’s something that hasn’t been done in a long time here and it’s great for the community and this team.”
Last weekend’s tournament win in Surprise, Arizona claimed the Pacific Southwest regional championship for the squad.
It capped a memorable run during a tournament that was held at home spring training complex for the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers.
“To get this far it’s just a huge accomplishment,” said head coach Mike Afzali “It’s great for the city, great for the county and our league to get this exposure and have the boys out there playing high level competitive baseball.”
Afzali credited an undeniable chemistry as a key to the team’s success. He said a core group of several players have been together competing in all-star tournaments since they were eight-years-old.
“It helps when you have players that have played together for so long, so they trust each other, they know each other, they always back each other up. It’s great to see these kids out here still together for this long,” Afzali said.
Bottini agreed, adding familiarity with the each other has translated to success on the field.
“We have a bond together and we know how to play together,” Bottini said. “We know what our strengths and weaknesses are and we know how to put those in play and how we’re going to play in the game.”
In addition to several longtime Five Cities all-stars, the team also features a handful of other players that have come to the league more recently.
Cole Gilson, who scored the championship-winning run on Saturday, is the lone player from Nipomo.
The soon-to-be Nipomo High School freshman said he, along with the other newer players, have blended in seamlessly.
“We’re just all the same,” said Gilson. “We like to fool around. We have the same sense of humor and we just fit in with each other. We all got to know each other and we’ve become good friends.”
All of the players and coaches will have airfare to Arkansas paid by the Babe Ruth national organization.
However, all other expenses, such as hotel rooms, food and family travel costs will not be covered, leaving the team in major fundraising mode just days before the tournament starts.
“We have great support from our community and everyone is rooting for us,” said Afzali. “They really helped us out to get to Arizona and now we need even more help to get to Arkansas.”
To help offset expenses, the team has setup a page on GoFundMe. Right now, they have listed a goal of $50,000.
According to the league, all donations through Five Cities Youth Baseball are tax deductible.
Once in Arkansas, the team will take part in opening ceremonies on Wednesday, August 8.
The team is guaranteed to play a minimum of four games in the 10-team tournament.
After pool play concludes, the top three-teams in the two five-team divisions will advance to single-elimination bracket play.
“It’s definitely going to be a big challenge, but we know that we can conquer it because we run as a machine, said infielder Josiah Cabreros. “Once we start going, it’s hard to stop us. You can’t count us out. Hopefully, we can bring back some hardware.”
“We are playing against the best of the best,” said Gilson. “I feel like it’s going to be real challenging, but I feel like we have a good chance of going far in this tournament. I hope the best. I hope we win it.”
No matter how the tournament winds up, the team knows this is a special time and will always be something they can look back and cherish.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity here. It’s really cool,” Afalzi said. “They’re getting ready to go into high school, so this summer is going to be something they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives.”
To help support the team’s trip to the Babe Ruth World Series, donations can be made through the Five Cities Babe Ruth Baseball GoFundMe page.