Santa Margarita twins motivate each other to excel


WILLIAMSPORT—The bond between twin brothers can become stronger than most in the dynamic of the family.

A twin brother can be both a best friend and brother at the same time. They can be motivators and they can even be there in the for the most important moments. They can also give their brothers an extra wardrobe just in case. The important things in life.

For Rancho Santa Margarita, the bond between twins is on full display every practice, every game, and every practice. The team has the rarity of having two sets of twins in Nick and Matt Haddad and Bobby and Joey Gray.

“We have the humblest group of boys I’ve ever met in my life,” Santa Margarita manager CJ Ankrum said. “They all get along really well. I have to separate the Hadad’s some time, but never the Grays.”

Ankrum gave a quick smile after giving the quote, signaling he knows the competition between each set of twins is strong. It also showed the type of relationship he has with his players which is strong.

There might be competition throughout both sets of twins, but the Gray brothers do seem to have a solid grasp on their relationship and what they are capable of doing on the field.

“I’m the better pitcher, because back at home he hits more home runs than me,” Bobby Gray said.

It showed Friday as Joey Gray left the yard for Santa Margarita’s first runs. He later singled in the third to score the team’s fifth run. He was well aware of the boost he gave his brother. He also knew his brother was going to do everything possible to keep that lead intact.

“He’ll throw more strikes than me,” Joey Gray said. “I’ll usually hit the ball harder. It brings out more competitiveness. When it comes to the games we’re at that same level of competitiveness.”

They also don’t seem fazed by the moment in front of them. After the grand slam, Bobby Gray, who needed more than 20 pitches to get through the first inning against the Northwest, came back to retire seven consecutive batters.

Along with enjoying the company of teammates, Ankrum has made it a point to make sure the players enjoy the moment and realize its bigger than the games on the field. The team soaked up the first day and appeared plenty rested for the opening round win. They also used to the time to scout teams, which will also be the order for Saturday’s off day.

“It helped all of us see the competition and how good the other teams are,” Drew Rutter, who scored three runs in the opening round win, said of getting to see other teams on the first day.

Santa Margarita benefited from opening the tournament on the second day of play.

“We like to scout other players we might have a chance to play,” Bobby Gray said. “It’s always nice to have another day of rest. We’ll come back ready to play.”

It gave the team a chance to adjust to the time difference, take a look at some of the competition, and simply enjoy the amenities offered by Williamsport’s gem.

“It’s been really fun,” Bobby Gray said. “We’ve got to meet a whole bunch of new people and meet other players and are having lots of fun with them.”

The rest and focus on enjoyment of the trip apparently worked for the West Regional Champion, which jumped out to a 4-0 lead thanks to Joey Gray’s first-inning grand slam. The rest, was highlighted by brother Bobby, who tossed 5 and 1/3 innings of one-hit ball to limit the Northwest and pick up the win.

“It’s a lot easier to be the team that teams that plays the fourth or fifth game,” Ankrum said. “That lead-off hitter that has to step in the box Game 1, pitch one of the World Series is a lot different than game four or five or six.”

Luckily for Santa Margarita it was the sixth game on the docket for the Series. The extra rest and time to prepare seemed to give it a boost, but it was and the outstanding efforts of the players that paved the way for the early success.

Santa Margarita will need another strong pitching performance in its second outing as it takes on the New England representative. In New England’s 7-6 opening round win over the Mid-Atlantic, it connected with 11 hits, deployed six different pitchers, and gave up two home runs.

New England scored six runs over the first four innings, which means another good start by Santa Margarita could go a long way to securing a win.

New England’s offense was led by Ethan Righter, Matthew Vivona, and Tyler Bauer. All three players finished with two hits each and combined to score four runs while driving in four.

The trio makes up the No. 1, three, and four spots in the lineup and could present tough outs.

Regardless of the opposition, Santa Margarita might have found the perfect mix of staying loose, but remaining locked on the task at hand. It has rest, competition between its sets of twins, and a what seems like the perfect mindset moving forward.

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