Colton Dirtbags out to defend Las Vegas Roadtrip title

Written by Bob on April 14th, 2012

Photos of the Colton Dirtbags and other teams and players during the 2010 Conquistadors Men’s Fastpitch Tournament.

LAS VEGAS, NV – Spring has arrived and that means men’s fastpitch softball is underway. And here out west the sport kicks off with the annual “Las Vegas Road Trip” April 14-15, at Sunset Park and its four beautiful ball diamonds.

Now in it’s fifth year, the tournament is directed by Southern Calif. Independent Fastpitch League (SCIFL) Commissioner, and NAFA Vice President, Robert Hernandez.

A look at the Las Vegas NAFA brackets finds 29 teams entered in either AA / AA-Major, A-Major, and A divisions. States sending ball clubs include Utah, New Mexico, Montana, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona and Wisconsin, along with teams from Mexico and Canada.

And of course, California is well represented – and that includes the defending 2011 A Division champions, the Colton Dirtbags.

The Dirtbags went 5-0 in 2011, and defeated the Northwest Naturals of Washington in the title game. And along the way, they knocked off the Stockton Black Sox, Balboa and Carribean.

“In our last three games, we had to come back from run deficits to win,” said Joaquin Juarez, who manages and plays first base. “We beat Carribean on a walk-off and had tied them in the seventh inning on a home run by Richard Soriano. Desiree Serrano won four games for us.”

Serrano was an All-American pitcher at Arizona State, and an all-star pitcher in the women’s National Pro Fastpitch League for the Washington D.C. Glory.

But the Colton native never forgot her roots, and found pitching in the men’s game for her hometown Dirtbags both challenging and rewarding. (Remember, men pitch from 46 feet, while the women are at 43 feet, so she had to make an adjustment.)

The Dirtbags have a few new additions this year, along with some key returning stars. Tommy Obregon joins the pitching staff along with returning veteran Brett Pobanz, and newcomer Jesse Martinez brings his big bat to the lineup.

“Tommy is a well known pitcher and tough competitor,” Juarez said. “Brett coaches for us and he’s a hard-throwing, crafty pitcher. And newcomer, Jesse Martinez, last year led the SCIFL in home runs and finished atop the leaders’ board in average and hits.”

Colton also has shortstop Donovan Reyes, outfielder Art Chavez, second baseman Shawn Campa, along with home run hitters Frank Hernandez, Martinez, and speedy, hardnosed Soriano as key contributors in its stable of stars.

Soriano is an interesting story. As with Serrano, he never forgot his Pass Area roots (Beaumont and Banning). Along with playing fastpitch for the Dirtbags and the Beaumont Coyotes, Soriano spearheaded a drive several months ago to start Little League baseball in the Pass Area. And it took off like a supercharged rocket, bringing dozens of youngsters into baseball and softball under the Little League banner. And Soriano deserves a great deal of the credit.

And as for the Las Vegas Road Trip?

“It’s our third year playing in it,” Juarez said. “Robert (Hernandez) does an excellent job in bringing teams from all over United States, Mexico and Canada. I’m real impressed with the structure, organization and commitment that goes into the Las Vegas Road Trip.

“Robert spends virtually the whole weekend at the park organizing, supervising and answering any and all disputes and concerns. We enjoy the tourney, and of course, enjoying Las Vegas while we’re here, too.”

Colton’s challenge in defending it’s title won’t be easy as 12 teams are entered in the A Division, with the Naturals returning. But Juarez and the Dirtbags relish the chance to play some “unknowns.”

“It’s a chance to see teams we’re not accustomed to seeing,” he said.

Visit the SCIFL website for Road Trip information

Follow the tourney with Jim Flanagan and Fastpitchwest

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