CHANNAHON – If any kids this summer can be accused of California dreaming, it’s the 9U Mustang All–Star team of Channahon.
That’s because that team won the North Zone Tournament in Plainfield last weekend to advance to this weekend’s World Series in Walnut, California, about 20 minutes from Anaheim.
The team, coached by Fernando Rizo, with assistant coaches Brad Allen, Michael Roberson, Jr. and Dave Thomas, defeated McCutcheonville, Indiana, twice during the weekend, 11–1 in the Zone semifinals and 16–1, in the Zone title game, to advance to the World Series. Their first game in the double-elimination World Series will be Friday at 4 p.m. against a team from Mexico.
The formula for success for Channahon isn’t much different than most baseball teams: pitching and defense.
“We have about five pitchers – Carter Gessner, Alex Allen, Mitch Thomas, Mike Andreano and Gabriel Knowles – that I feel confident with any of them on the mound,” Rizo said. “That’s a nice feeling as a manager to be able to send any one of them out there. Plus, if one is struggling, it’s not like we only have one or two guys that come in relief. We can get someone in there quickly who we are just as confident in.
“Plus, our defense has been outstanding. In the championship game of the Zone, we turned three double plays, which you don’t see very often at this level. So, our pitchers know they don’t have to strike everyone out.”
Other members of the team include Isaiah Beck, Michael Roberson III, Mackenzie Mazzocchi, Ryan Kuchar, Dominic Cioni and Sully Minor.
“Everyone plays at least two defensive positions,” Rizo said. “We have been together since they were seven years old. We play in-house during the regular season and part-time travel on Sundays only. So these kids go between in–house and All-Star play.
“They are just excited to get to go to California. I have to remind them when we get there that no matter where we are playing, it’s still baseball. But, it’s a once–in–a–lifetime thing for them so we want them to enjoy it.”