The LGLL Junior All Star team went 3-0 en route to winning the District 12 championship. They advance to play in the Section 5 Tournament on Saturday at Manzanita Park in Salinas. Photo by Jim Mort.

Los Gatos Little League Junior All Star Manager Andre Torres and his assistants know they’re coaching a truly special team. 

The majority of the athletes on the team have grown up playing together in LGLL since they were 8-year-olds in the Double-A level. Now, as 14-year-olds, the Junior players realize this is their final go-around in a LGLL uniform. 

Players have become best friends and their respective families have developed deep bonds, fostering a tight-knit community. 

“After a championship game, we all usually go out to dinner and we really talk about the sense of closeness this group has,” Torres said. “You should see our family text stream–it’s all roses; and we all love each other very much.”

The roster includes Aarav Chugh, Brixton Mentz-Bonnifield, Carson DeMaestri, Colton Kalin, Cruz Catipon, Dexter Torres, Grant Browder, Jimmy Mort, Kenji Okubo, Lucas Bottoms, Nico Flores, Ryan Carlisle, Timmy McNeil and TJ Lombardi. The assistant coaches are David Lombardi and Nico Flores. 

The Junior All Stars went 3-0 en route to winning the District 12 championship in impressive fashion, culminating in a 11-1 mercy-rule victory over Lincoln Glen on June 26. They’ve advanced to the Section 5 Tournament and play their first game on July 6 at 1pm at Manzanita Park in Salinas. 

Should they win the Section 5 Tournament, they would reach the NorCal Tournament for the third consecutive year. Two years ago, as 12-year-olds playing on the Majors All Star team, they reached the NorCal semifinals. 

Last year, as 13-year-olds on the Intermediate All Star squad, they reached the NorCal championship game. 

“Now they want to complete the job,” said Torres, who was the manager for last year’s Intermediate team. “Every year they’re doing one round better. But it’s still one tournament at a time because Sectionals are very tough.”

Led by leadoff hitter McNeil and No. 2 batter Mentz-Bonnifield, Los Gatos scored 35 runs in three games in the District 12 Tournament. 

“Timmy and Brixton set the tone for the team at the top of the order, but everyone contributed one way or another,” Torres said. 

Dexter Torres hit over .400—one of the highest batting averages on the team—and the pitchers were also top-notch. Chugh started the District title game and tossed 4 ⅓ innings before Lombardi closed things out in a game that lasted just five innings due to the mercy rule. 

“The boys really came out to play that last game,” Torres said. “It’s one of those things, for lack of a better term, they just win. They know how to put it together.”

Torres used seven different pitchers in three games, exactly half of the team’s roster. 

“That’s pretty incredible if you think about it,” he said. 

What else is unique about this year’s LGLL Junior All Star team? For one, the fact they’re still together. Players and teams in the Little League organization typically stay together until the Majors 12U division. 

After that, the athletes usually focus on club baseball, play another sport or quit baseball altogether. But that’s not what the 2022 LGLL Majors team did. After the squad’s spectacular run that summer, parents and organizers within the league knew there was enough support and buy-in to start an Intermediate team for the first time in league history, for summer 2023. 

All but one of the players from that squad returned to play for the Junior team this season. But even in the case of LGLL, all good things must come to an end. Most of the players will be freshmen in the upcoming 2024-2025 school year, and by next spring will have aged out of Little League.

“So it’s kind of the last hurrah for these group of boys,” Torres said.

Incredibly, eight of the 14 Junior players have been pulling double duty the last month, participating in football practice in the morning and baseball in the evening. The core group of players and coaches are cherishing each moment, however long their season lasts. 

Torres recently looked at a team picture of the 2018 LGLL Double-AA Phillies team and couldn’t help but smile. 

“Colton was on that team, Dexter, Jimmy, Lucas, TJ,” Torres said. “That was the first time I remembered these kids being all together. Over time, these kids and their families have grown and they love being around each other. It’s kind of cool, because these things don’t happen often.”

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Emanuel Lee primarily covers sports for Weeklys/NewSVMedia's Los Gatan publication. Twenty years of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40, counts himself as a true disciple of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza.


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