Randy Angel

Torrance teens claim Babe Ruth World Series championship

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Members of the Torrance Babe Ruth 13-15 World Series Championship team include: (front row, left to right) Jacob Villareal, Kyle Hatai, Tyler Baskett, Joshua Foster, (middle row) Cary Arbolida, Neil Feist, Harrison Mingham, Tommaso Battioni, Michael Ezer, Thomas Bainton, Kevin Ishimaru, (back row) Dickson Hatai, Kai Hershberger, Keanu Yamashiro, Manager Robert Ybarra, Tanner Schafer, Jesse Esphorst and Coach Jesse Esphorst. Photo courtesy of Dickson Hatai

Members of the Torrance Babe Ruth 13-15 World Series Championship team include: (front row, left to right) Jacob Villareal, Kyle Hatai, Tyler Baskett, Joshua Foster, (middle row) Cary Arbolida, Neil Feist, Harrison Mingham, Tommaso Battioni, Michael Ezer, Thomas Bainton, Kevin Ishimaru, (back row) Dickson Hatai, Kai Hershberger, Keanu Yamashiro, Manager Robert Ybarra, Tanner Schafer, Jesse Esphorst and Coach Jesse Esphorst. Photo courtesy of Dickson Hatai

By Randy Angel

Watching his players warm up for championship game of the Babe Ruth 13-15 year-old World Series, Torrance head coach Rob Ybarra remembered his own moment in the spotlight a decade earlier.

Ybarra was named Most Outstanding Player of the 2006 World Series held in Clifton Park, N. Y. but this time he had more than his own performance on his mind as his team took on Middle Atlantic Region representative Atlantic Shore, N.J. for the title in Williston, N.D.

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Comprised of players from North, South, Torrance and West High Schools, Ybarra’s squad did not disappoint.  The team soundly defeated Atlantic Shore 6-1 behind the pitching of Kevin Ishimaru, who hurled a complete game allowing only one run on three hits with six strikeouts.

“It was an awesome win for the guys and their hard work and countless hours of practice paid off,” Ybarra said. “It was an emotional time for me. As a player, my adrenaline was flowing but as a head coach, it’s a big responsibility to manage everything. I feel very fortunate to win the World Series. When we won in 2006, my dad was a coach and now I get to share the same feeling.”

Facing a pitching staff that had only allowed five runs in the tournament, Torrance jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third inning on RBI singles by Jesse Esphorst and Cary Arbolida.

Torrance increased its lead to 4-1 in the fourth inning and, after triples by Thomas Bainton and Arbolida in the seventh inning, the South Bay boys had the insurance runs they needed for the win.

Jesse Esphorst was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Bainton and Kyle Hatai were selected to the All-Tournament team and catcher Keanu Yamashiro was presented a Glove Glove award.

The team finished 6-0 in the tournament while winning Torrance’s third World Series championship and first since 2008.

“Most of the players on the team have been playing together for three years,” Ybarra said. “It’s a close-knit group who will face each other in the spring for the Pioneer League title but, just as important, be playing for bragging rights among friends.”

Torrance players included Kyle Hatai, Thomas Bainton and Tyler Baskett of North Torrance; Jesse Esphorst, Kevin Ishimaru, Keanu Yamashiro and Cary Arbolida of South Torrance; Tommaso Battioni, Jacob Villareal, Harrison Mingham and Neil Feist of Torrance High and Tanner Schafer, Michael Ezer and Kai Hershberger of West Torrance. Assistant coaches were Jesse Esphorst and Dickson Hatai.

Torrance reached the championship game by defeating Eau Claire, Wis. 8-2, Bismark, N.D. 6-4, South Brazora, Tex. 7-1, host Willinston, N.D. 6-4 and Tallahassee, Fla. 8-7.

The game against Tallahassee could have been the championship game,” Ybarra said. “It just goes to show how hard it is to win it all.”

Torrance routed perennial power Westchester 11-0 to qualify for the Regional tournament where they beat Hawaii 5-4 to advance to the World Series as the Pacific Southwest representative.

Ybarra credits League President Bob Grajeda for the success of Babe Ruth baseball in Torrance.

“My hat’s off to Bob,” Ybarra said. “In 2007, he oversaw the merger of separate Babe Ruth Leagues within the city, enabling us to maintain a strong program. He has given back so much to the community and the sport of baseball.”

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