|Ranger Lashley, from Camp Verde, grabs a throw and lunges towards first base to beat the runner during Camp Verde’s surge against Verde Valley. |
|Raul Alvarez, of the Verde Valley Little League All-Stars 10-11 team, reaches for a throw to record the out, late in the game against the Camp Verde All-Stars. VVN/Travis Guy|
By Travis Guy
The District 10 Little League crowned its' 10-11 All-Star tournament champion following two days of back-and-forth baseball and a blowout in the title game.
On June 22, the Verde Valley All-Stars took to the field for its second game in as many days against the Camp Verde All-Stars. For the first few innings, both teams battled and matched each other run for run. With the score knotted at six going into the third, Verde Valley was held and Camp Verde took the to the plate. With pitching being a hot commodity this season, the team with the better crop of pitchers looked to take the game.
"Unfortunately in a tournament like this, you're trying to play for the next game," said Camp Verde head coach Nathan Jackson. "You have to win the one that's in front of you. If we had won, we would have played for the championship, but it is what it is. We're really low on pitching this year, around the league, and we just didn't quite have the pitching we needed to get it done."
Both Verde Valley and Camp Verde's pitchers were doing what they needed to do, but Verde Valley's Jace Taylor began to tire in the third, allowing one run and walked another run in. Following this, Verde Valley's head coach Todd Grandy replaced him with Pete Calandra. It took Pete an few innings to find his footing on the mound, allowing Camp Verde to increase its' lead to five in the next two innings, with Verde Valley heading back to the dugout in a 13-8 hole.
This position was all too familiar with the All-Stars, as the game they played the previous day against Camp Verde was almost the same. Verde Valley went on to rally and beat Camp Verde 16-15, and the team was hoping to do it again.
Going into the sixth, and final inning, Verde Valley began to chip away at the deficit. First they scored two runs off of overthrown pitches. Then they brought in two more before forcing Camp Verde to make a pitching change with one out away from victory. At this point, Camp Verde's Mason Rayburn had thrown 88 pitches on the day. Camp Verde brought in Rusty Helgerson, who had not pitched too much and was only able to make it a few pitches, and Verde Valley runs, before another change. Wylie Howe was brought in to end the inning, and he did just that following a pop fly. Unfortunately for Camp Verde, Verde Valley had done what it did the previous night and rallied, putting Camp Verde in a 3-run hole. Verde Valley held Camp Verde in its' final at bat, advancing to the next game and ending Camp Verde's season.
"One thing I would like to say about these kids, they are going to be incredible; incredible adults, incredible people, whenever they get to that age. It's been an incredibly proud moment for me to coach them," Jackson said.
Going into the next game, Verde Valley squared off against the Prescott All-Stars. While Verde Valley was coming off of two, emotional come-from-behind wins over Camp Verde (the previous game and the first day of the tournament), Prescott had the entire day to rest after its 10-0 shutout of Verde Valley. This fact was evident from the beginning of the game.
"Yeah, we did jump out to an early lead and Verde just didn't have the answers for our phenomenal pitching," said Prescott head coach Josh Gross. "Corey Schwartz pitched a great game yesterday, Reymundo Chairez pitched a great game today and the bats came alive. Everybody was hitting. Every single player for Prescott reached base, at least once. Just a great team effort and all around good game, two good games."
Prescott jumped to an early 9-0 lead and Verde Valley was not able to recover, no matter how hard they tried. Verde Valley mustered a few hits through the game, and had runners in scoring position a few times, but Prescott was too fresh and powerful a team for Verde Valley.
"Oh yeah, it definitely factored in, it was a tough set-up from the get go," said Verde Valley head coach Todd Grandy. "I mean, our pitching was pretty much used up, the kids were tired, we had two kids really that could catch, and both of them were just dead-exhausted by the end of this tournament. Two games a day, when two of the games, the Camp Verde games, were just exhausting, emotionally and physically for these kids, it was a lot. But give Prescott their due, because they are a really, really good team. They're a team that usually plays in the 11-12 tournament, and they came down to play in the 10-11's this year, and you can see, they have a lot of talent over there."
After four innings of Verde Valley fighting to score a run, the game was called on account of the major rule, with Prescott winning the de facto championship game 19-0.
"It was a blast. These kids just ... when we got out there for practice one, they were a bunch of individuals that didn't know each other very well," Grandy remembered. "There were a few kids that played together, but a lot of them were just meeting for the first time and it was really, the whole first week, it was a little difficult, in the fact that they were having a tough time gelling as a team, and then it just clicked. They came together more as a team, almost more than any team I've seen, or coached. They were an incredible group of kids."
With both days mirroring each other, the 10-11 Prescott All-Star baseball team will advance to the next round of little league tournaments.
"This means a lot for Prescott," Gross said. "We don't send a lot of teams to state, so to get this opportunity to go and let these kids play fort he rest of the summer, to play more tournament, it's going to be a big help to them, for their future."