For the second straight year, the PenCities White Sox are heading to the West Zone Tournament at the Urban Youth Academy in Compton — one step away from the PONY Palomino 18U League World Series.
White Sox manager Lenny Souza has advanced as far as the West Zone tournament in four previous seasons. Twice he has achieved runner-up status. He has yet to advance to the Palomino League’s big dance. As Souza has proclaimed since the summer’s outset, though, this year’s PenCities team is built to change that.
Advancing to the West Zone tourney by virtue of a four-game sweep through the Super Region tournament is proof positive the White Sox have made strides this year. With the top two finishers in the Super Region tourney advancing to West Zone play, last year’s second-place finish was enough to see PenCities move on.
This year, the White Sox outscored opponents through the four wins at Santa Clara’s Washington Park by a cumulative 27-4, including back-to-back shutouts through the quarter and semifinals. A 4-2 win last Friday over All-Star Academy-Santa Clara in the championship game then sealed the title.
“It was great,” Souza said. “We gave up four runs in the tournament. It feels good. It’s great having bats but, in my experience, when you make deep playoff runs, you’ve got to have the pitching to do it.”
Two Carlmont graduates dominated to fire the consecutive shutouts. In a previous quarterfinal matchup against All-Star Academy, right-hander Lucas Billot went the distance in a 10-0 win. Then in last Thursday’s semifinals, a 4-0 win over the Santa Clara Red Sox, right-hander Mitchell Plane set down nine of the last 10 batters he faced en route to a three-hit shutout.
“The Carlmont kids were big,” Souza said. “They played really well.”
Plane has been a cornerstone two-way player for the White Sox all summer, and showed it Thursday. In addition to his dominant pitching exploits, he went 1 for 4 with an RBI double at the plate.
“He was great,” Souza said. “He was sharp. He is tough because he changes arm angles so well and changes speeds so well. He talked me out of DH-ing for him and had a good game at the plate. So, he was big.”
Then in Friday’s championship game, the private-school kid out of Sacred Heart Prep, left-hander Angelo Tonas, showed up to bring home the championship, working five innings to earn the win in the 9-2 victory.
The Peninsula Athletic League Bay Division Pitcher of the Year for SHP in the spring, Tonas is a commit to Georgetown University, and therefore had his innings limited at the start of the summer. He made his first start for Souza in late June, and has quickly earned ace credentials. In fact, Souza said Tonas would have pitched earlier in the Super Region tournament but the southpaw didn’t return until Friday from a family vacation.
And, so, the White Sox went into the championship game with their ace on the mound.
“It just kind of worked out that way,” Souza said. “It was probably the first time going into a championship game situation with my ace.”
Right-hander Nathan Peng gives PenCities another surefire ace, though. The recent graduate of Saratoga High School features a fastball that touches the low 90s, but was used exclusively in relief throughout the regular season. Souza, though, unleashed the big righty to start the Super Region opener. He responded by striking out 12 through six innings to earn the win.
It was a comeback win, as PenCities trailed 2-0 early. But a two-run single by Elliott Biagini in the fifth gave the White Sox the lead. Right-hander Jaxon Skidmore retired the side in order in the seventh to earn the save.
West Zone play opens Thursday. The eight-team, double-elimination tournament features squads from three states, including six from California (four Southern California, and two Northern California) along with one team from Hawaii, and one from Washington state.
The White Sox took third place last year, and earned runner-up honors in 2009 and ’11. The winner advances to the Palomino World Series in Laredo, Texas, beginning Thursday, Aug. 2.
Tag(s): 18+ White Sox (College)