By Jay Steiger
The La Mesa National Little League Aztecs won the District 33 Majors Tournament of Champions (TOC) on June 16 after a long, hard-fought game against the Mission Trails Yankees.
District 33 Little League is a large area that includes local leagues from La Mesa to North Park and Rolando to Kearny Mesa. A total of 16 teams, including two from La Mesa National, played in the TOC. Both La Mesa National teams advanced through many rounds of play to the semifinals, with the La Mesa Bruins losing to Mission Trails, and the Aztecs defeating the San Carlos Cubs.
Playing to packed stands at La Mesa’s Kuhlken field, the Yankees started strong, scoring two runs in the first inning. La Mesa pitcher Jake Perez didn’t let this faze him though, and continued to throw strikes, ultimately staying on the mound for 89 pitches. La Mesa batters hit singles and doubles to eventually tie the game at 5-5.
Suddenly their bats heated up and they brought in run after run, including a soaring homer by Jake Perez. Aztecs relief pitcher Garett Kinnard, supported by excellent defensive teamwork, kept the Yankees from adding to their runs. The final score was 10-5 for the Aztecs.
Following the game, both teams were applauded by the fans and the Aztecs were presented with a district championship banner.
Aztecs manager Brian McMann was effusive in his praise for the team. He said the season was long and hard but they developed as a team and he was incredibly proud of their accomplishment. McMann also noted that a parent of one of the players had tragically died during the season.
“For them to finish with such a strong record showed character and grit, he said. “They will carry that victory flag with them for the rest of their lives.”
League president Tracy McCormick echoed McMann’s praise, commenting that they are great kids and deserve the banner as a testament to their teamwork during a challenging season.
Perez said it was a crazy year and he had fun playing with this team. He gave credit to his teammates who would pick each other back up when they started to get down during tough games.
The La Mesa National Mavericks also advanced to the finals of the District 33 Minors TOC, but lost to the Allied Gardens Grinders.
District 33 begins All Stars games in late June, with the Majors Division teams having the chance to play all the way to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.
—Jay Steiger is a parent and youth sports and school volunteer. Reach him at email@example.com.