Easton Bullets 10U Team

From left to right. Bottom row: Jayla Bland, Mariah Martinez, Liz Zavala (holding plaque), Olivia Dallimore, Sophia Vannatta, Dani Yepez Top row: Haylie Pledger, Emma Velasco, Lizzy Figueroa, Janelle Alvarez, Hailey Starr, Aaliyah Brown

Coaches: Alyssa Figueroa, head coach Will Martinez, Felipe Zavala, Victor Figueroa

The girls on the 10U Easton Bullets squad have been very busy this summer. Coached by Will Martinez, the Bullets have been to 14 tournaments, placing first eight times and second five times during that span.

Yet none stood out more than their recent loss to the Visalia Rockets at the NSA Northern California State Championship finals on July 7.

Looking to make amends, the 10U Bullets squad regrouped for the NSA Pacific Coast World Series held at Northgate Park in Manteca from July 24-28.

“Going in, our goal was, if we saw them, to return the favor,” head coach Will Martinez said in regards to the list of familiar opponents awaiting them.

A total of eight teams composed the 10 U “A” bracket at the 2019 Pacific Coast World Series. Pool play had a time limit of 75 minutes per game. Elimination rounds featured an 80-minute time limit.

The determined Bullets had an impressive showing, going 6-0 in tournament play, to take the NSA Pacific Coast World Series title. The championship tournament run put the team’s record at 69-15-4 for the year.

“It was special. It was huge. We’re the second (Bullets) team to win the World Series as a 10U,” head coach Will Martinez said. “Huge accomplishment for the girls.”

The last time a Bullets 10U non-showcase team won the NSA World Series was in the summer of 2012. The 2012 team won the “B” bracket that year, while this year’s iteration was able to win the “A” bracket.

The Bullets began their run with a 3-1 victory over the Mid Cal Legends out of Manteca in the first game of pool play.

A familiar foe in the Sutter Buttes Thunder awaited them in the second game. The two squads were very familiar with each other, and it was a priority for the Bullets to topple the strong Thunder squad in pool play. The girls accomplished just that, with an unexpected 12-2 shelling of the quality Thunder team.

“Going in, we knew it was going to be tough. We knew it would be important to get ahead in those first two games,” Martinez said. “That was huge beating them (Sutter Butte). We knew we would have to win every day. I was shocked that we took it with that score.”

A flawless 2-0 record in pool play set the Bullets up as the number one seed in the elimination bracket.

All eight teams in pool play advanced to the elimination round, and were seeded based on their performance.

They squared off with the All-American Sports Academy out of Tracy, winning 4-3 in the opener of the elimination round on July 26.

The Thunder squad met them in the second round, but the encore matchup was a much tougher state of affairs, with the Bullets edging out another one-run win 4-3.

Awaiting the Bullets in the semifinals was the aforementioned Visalia Rockets squad that had denied the Bullets a chance at an NSA Northern California State Championship title earlier in July.

The Rockets blew the game wide open when they scored five runs in the top of the second inning, but the Bullets responded with five of their own runs in the bottom of the second, to tie the game up at 5-5.

Visalia retook the lead when they scored in the top of the third inning, to put the pressure back on the Bullets to respond once again.

With the timer going against them, it was imperative the Bullets find an immediate response. Jayla Bland got the Bullets started with a walk before Hailey Starr swatted a single, putting runners on first and second. A strikeout and a comeback line drive put up two outs.

Emma Velasco stepped up to the dish with a chance to save the Bullets from elimination. She seared a ball to right center field, scoring Bland and Starr, to complete a 7-6 comeback victory as the 80-minute timer expired.

“One of the best games I’ve been a part of,” Martinez said reflecting on the victory over the Rockets.

After exorcising the demons against Sutter Butte and Visalia, the Bullets were riding on cloud nine entering their championship match against Nor Cal Fastpitch out of Tracy. A 9-3 victory over the Fastpitch meant the Bullets were the 2019 NSA Pacific Coast World Series Champions.

The Bullets plan to play one more tournament before summer’s end, before beginning their transition from a 10U team to an 11U team this fall and winter. The majority of the team’s roster hails from Patterson, with a handful of players from Dos Palos, Ceres and Nevada.

PI sports writer

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