By Ray Hamill — After facing off against each other at the Section Little League All-Star tournament a year ago, a group of Chico and Humboldt players joined forces this summer to forge some lifelong memories.
Playing together as the NorCal Dirtbags, the new friends recently traveled east to compete in the 12U Cooperstown Dreams Park tournament and impressed against some of the best young players in the nation.
With six players from Chico and six from Humboldt, the Dirtbags won all five of their pool games and were seeded No. 2 out of 72 teams going into the tournament playoffs, where they fell in the the quarterfinals.
“This was the holy grail of 12-year-old travel team baseball,” coach Travis Schneider said. “These kids got the opportunity to see things they wouldn’t normally see.”
The players bonded on and off the field, with some big performances in pool play, including a memorable 6-5 walk-off win over a team from Minneapolis in their third game.
Riley Schneider hit the game-winning walk-off home run after Braedon Tatreau had homered to tie the game.
Tatreau enjoyed an outstanding tournament at the plate and hit five home runs over the six games, as did teammate Quinn Melton.
As a team, the hard-hitting Dirtbags hit 23 home runs in tournament play.
“It was an incredible run, with a truly special group of kids,” Travis Schneider said. “Team chemistry and versatility played an instrumental role in the success of this team.”
Patrick Raftery, Brayden Bermers, Mason Noel, Joshua Shanoff, Kyle Giacone and Myles Fortune each also homered at the tournament.
Fortune also dominated on the mound in the Dirtbags’ second game against a team from Syracuse, throwing just 36 pitches in four scoreless innings for the win, while Shanoff, Bermers, Raftery, Giacone, Noel and Riley Schneider also turned in strong performances on the mound to support the red-hot offense.
“It’s a tourney and experience we will never forget,” Travis Schneider said.
Kade Pinochi, James Beauchane and Parker Schneider each also impressed at the prestigious tournament, which in the past has featured players such as Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, while Medy Beauchane helped Travis with the coaching duties.
“I think the team chemistry was arguably the strongest component of this team,” Travis Schneider said.
The players also got to tour Yankee Stadium together.