SIERRA VISTA — Resilience. That’s the definition of this year’s 12U Little League District 8 champions.
The team from Sierra Vista defeated visiting Nogales 5-4 in extra innings Wednesday night at Stone Complex to advance to the state tournament.
“We used the word ‘resilient’ all the time,” said Sierra Vista head coach Adam Cushman. “We did a lot of conditioning, so they were resilient when they needed to be.”
Sierra Vista took an early 1-0 lead but Nogales battled to tie in the top of the fourth after Andy Baldenegro doubled with two of his teammates on base. Nathan Whitworth, Sierra Vista’s starting pitcher, and his teammates made it out of the inning with the game tied.
Nogales broke the tie in the fifth when a double, with one out, scored their runners on first and third. They tacked on one more run in the top of the sixth to take a commanding three-run lead.
Sierra Vista didn’t let the deficit stop them. Nogales registered two quick outs to put the pressure on the team in blue. From there, Branden Brown doubled for his teams first base runner in the inning. David Rendon followed with a hard-hit ground ball up the third base line passed the third baseman to score Brown and make the score 4-2.
Thomas Welker singled to put runners on first and second and bring the game winning run at the plate. Angel Olivarez stepped in the batter’s box and earned himself a walk to load the bases with two outs. Brayson Haymore sent a pitch up the middle to score the tying two runs and force extra innings.
“We told them to keep focus and keep calm,” Cushman said. “Just to take it one pitch at a time.”
Brown took over on the mound for Sierra Vista one out into the seventh inning after Whitworth reached the 85-pitch limit. Brown was lights out on the mound striking out three of the six batters.
Each team started the eighth inning with a runner on second base per Little League rules. Sierra Vista held Nogales’ runner on third after he advanced on a wild pitch. Carlos Amador was Sierra Vista’s designated runner. He moved to third base on a wild pitch to put the game winning run 60-feet way.
Redon was intentionally walked with one out to put runners on first and third. A single by Welker scored Amador and punched Sierra Vista’s ticket to the upcoming state tournament.
“I had high expectations for this group and they met them,” Cushman said. “They have just play together (so long) they know what to expect for one another and what each other can do.”