NHBA Bronco All-Stars roll

LOS ALAMITOS —There is a so-called mercy rule in place to protect the dignity of an overmatched opponent. But it occurs to one watching the Newport Harbor Baseball Assn. Bronco U12 All-Stars bludgeon another opponent on Friday, that an Ultimate Fighting Championship competitor smothered in submission may exercise a more humane alternative by merely tapping out.

The Newport Harbor 12-year-olds, who last year were two wins away from advancing to their age-group World Series, began the official Bronco All-Stars postseason with a 19-0 trouncing of Placentia at St. Hedwig School.

The suspense was all but ruined by a seven-run first inning for the designated hosts, who batted around in their first three innings and hit just four times, three fewer than possible in the scheduled seven-inning format.

But with the formality of a no-hitter taken care of when Placentia led off the fifth with a single to right field, Newport Harbor proceeded to finish off the 15 outs necessary to satisfy the 10-run rule that kicks in after the trailing team's fifth inning.

It was the 16th time in 18 wins this season that Newport Harbor had invoked the mercy rule on an opponent as it improved to 18-3 and advanced to the second round of the Southern California West Central District Tournament.

The locals, who won three of their four warm-up tournaments, play St. Hedwig on Saturday at 12:15 p.m. for the right to advance to Sunday's title game in the six-team, single-elimination event. The top two teams from this tournament advance past the section tournament to region play. The zone tournament, where no Newport Harbor team had competed until last year, sends teams to the World Series.

John Olmstead pitched four hitless innings and struck out nine before giving way to reliever Ethan Barnes who worked a scoreless fifth. Olmstead allowed just three runners to reach base, only two of whom got to second. And he picked one of those runners off second.

One Placentia runner reached on an error and another reached on a wild pitch on strike three. The third player to reach against Olmstead walked, but was stranded on first.

Pitching and defense are clearly a part of the equation for Newport Harbor, according to Manager Sam Olmstead and assistant coach Robert Stefano. But hitting is anything but a weakness for the 12-player squad that has two new additions from last year's group.

In 21 games this season, Newport Harbor has belted 48 home runs, including two more on Friday.

Hayden Schott cleared the left-center-field fence with a two-run dinger in the first inning to up the lead to 4-0. Three hitters later, Shawn Nielsen lined a three-run jack over nearly the exact same portion of the fence and the rout was on.

Placentia could, of course, be forgiven for virtually checking out of the contest at that point. The designated visitors might have been experiencing a little destructive deja vu after having given up six homers in one inning in a warm-up tournament loss to Newport Harbor earlier this summer.

John Olmstead, Barnes and left fielder Payton Jefferson all went three for four to lead the 14-hit attack that was aided by five Placentia errors, seven walks and one hit batter.

The younger Olmstead, who has 15 home runs and 42 RBIs in All-Star play, drove in three runs and scored two, while Schott, who now has nine All-Star big flies, finished two for three with three RBIs and three runs.

Olmstead may have been allowed to try to finish the no-hit bid, but he is still recovering from a cracked ulna in his right, pitching arm sustained just five weeks ago. The four innings was his longest outing since the injury.

Jefferson had two RBIs and three runs, while Barnes chipped in one RBI and one run

Nielsen, who now has five dingers in All-Star play, was two for two with three RBIs and two runs.

Caleb Ricketts was one for two, reached base three times and scored three runs, while Nolan Dunn walked twice in his two at-bats, driving in a run and scoring two.

A.J. Stefano and Corbin Vaicek both scored a run to round out the offensive contributors for the winners.

Vaicek and Tanner Ivey are the two newcomers, this season, the older Olmstead said.

Finn Springston and Dayne Chalmers both started in the infield for Newport Harbor on Friday.

No fewer than 11 of the 12 Newport Harbor players have gone yard in All-Star competition this season.

None have yet to pull off a rear-naked choke.

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