West Walton All Stars rise from the ashes

Ansleigh Hester | Walton Tribune Intern

Head coach, Jason Hester, (far left in the back), coaches and players pose for a team picture with their championship rings after their thir4d championship win. Contributed photo

This past weekend, the West Walton Nationals added another championship win under their belts as they head towards future tournaments in the 8U All-Star division. Even after a major setback, the Nationals came back better than ever.

Last weekend, the Nationals were run-ruled by a team they previously won against in the last championship. Since this was their first game of the day, they had to play more games to get back on top.

“I don’t know if we were just complacent during the first game on Saturday, but we handled the adversity well and kept fighting,” said Head Coach Jason Hester. “We still didn’t play to our full potential through the next few games, but we were talented enough to push through the rest of the tournament.”

Chriz Custodio is the main pitcher for the Nationals. He compared all three tournaments to each other.

“Our first tournament was small compared to the others. It was like an introduction to what we will be experiencing. The first win really boosted the team’s spirit. The second tournament was harder than the first. The last tournament was the hardest for me because we had to overcome a lot,” Custodio said.

Custodio shared the difficulties of last weekend’s tournament. He highlighed the power struggle the team faced when being knocked down to the bottom of the bracket.

“We had to play a lot of games last weekend because we lost the first game on Saturday. We had to play three more after losing the first game. Then Sunday, we had to play four games. It was a rough experience because the games were right after each other.”

First baseman Hayden Christian explained the last championship game meant a lot to him.

“My favorite game is the last championship because we won after a lot of games we had to play (to get to the final game),” Christian said.

It was a meaningful game to Christian and the whole team because their hardwork and perseverance helped the team achieve another win.

Custodio, in the final games last Sunday, dededicated their last wins to a hurt player.

“One of the players developed a wrist injury due to an amazing play at home. I gathered all the kids together and told them to win the remaining games for him,” Custodio said. “He made an amazing play for us.”

During the lastest championship, Brayden Henry, second baseman on the Nationals, turned a double play that helped the team successfully beat their opponent.

“In the championship game this past weekend, the last play of the game ended with one of our players, Brayden Henry, catching a line drive and turning a double play from second to first,” Coach Jason said.

This earned Henry the chance to wear the reputable WWE belt.

Coach Jason purchased the belt with the intent to motivate his players during the grueling All-Stars tournaments.

“An incentive we have for the team is a replica of the WWE World Championship belt. Whenever one of the kids makes an extraordinary play or hit, they will get to wear the belt. It’s to highlight any kid that does something out of the ordinary. This is a great motivator for the kids,” Jason said.

Christian shared that the belt has an importance to him.

“If someone took the belt from us I would be so sad. I enjoy wearing the WWE belt,” Christian said.

“I don’t want anyone taking the belt from us.”

Moving forward, Coach Jason and Coach Custodio, with Sandy Needham and JP Poreba (base pad coaches), plan to work on minor errors within the team.

“Coach Jason and I reflect after each tournament. We look at what the kids need to work on at practice,” Custodio said.

Custodio ends with a nugget of information that he believes is the “secret code” to playing All-Star baseball.

“We also play ‘catch up ball’ which means we score a lot of runs, so the opposing team has to score that many runs. That gets us ahead in the game,” Custodio said.

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