SIERRA VISTA — Sierra Vista Little League’s Senior All-Stars won the state championship Wednesday night, beating Winslow 7-2 at Arbenz Field.
In attendance was Sierra Vista Mayor Rick Mueller, watching the hometown team as they battled the team from Northern Arizona.
According to SVLL officials, the baseball state championship is the league’s second, the first coming in 2019 when the 50/70 All-Stars won the title and along with host Nogales advanced to the regional tournament, both making it into the final four.
Due to Little League’s adjusted format this year, with the only exception being the majors division, there will be no regional or national tournament beyond state for the seniors this year.
With the exception of a loss to Nogales in the first game of the District 8 tournament, Wednesday’s game was Sierra Vista’s closest of the tournament.
Going into Wednesday Sierra Vista was riding a five-game winning streak and had mercy-ruled all three of its opponents by a combined score of 53-10. Winslow was one of those, losing to Sierra Vista 17-5 in the first game of the tournament.
The state title game was a different story as Winslow put up a respectable fight.
Sierra Vista scored first when Owen Abrams scored on an RBI double by TJ Nuetzel.
Winslow tied the game in the top of the third on a solo home run by Brendan Knight.
In the bottom half of third Nuetzel smacked a solo homer, giving Sierra Vista a 2-1 edge.
Winslow countered with Keaton Kislingbury’s solo shot in the top of the fourth which tied the game at 2-2.
The score remained tied until the bottom of the fifth when Sierra Vista scored a run for a 3-2 edge.
In the bottom of the sixth Sierra Vista padded its lead with four more runs.
DJ Elias was the winning pitcher for Sierra Vista, going the distance, allowing four hits while striking out eight.
Kane Ybarra took the loss for Winslow, going 5 1/3 innings before being relieved.
“The boys worked really hard, they earned this,” said Jeremy Venuti, manager of the Sierra Vista All-Stars. “I’ve been coaching most of these guys since they were little. It’s been a pleasure watching them grow up. To end like this is a good way to go out.”
The coach said the first loss to Nogales several weeks ago was due to nerves and the fact the players were pressing a bit too much. They came back relaxed the next night and hit the ball well and things just rolled from there.
Venuti credited the Winslow pitcher for pitching a great game.
“He did a good job of keeping us off balance,” he said. “Once he left the game we were able to string together a few more hits, which led to us getting more runs.”
The manager also acknowledged his pitcher Elias, saying he’s the “workhorse of the team.”
“We knew with him on the mound he was going to give us everything he had,” Venuti said. “He’s all heart.”
Elias said it was fun being on the mound pitching in the state championship.
“I’ve been in that situation before so I pretty much knew what to expect,” he said. “I started off a little rusty and came back from a couple of bad counts and got my pitches working. This feels so amazing. I’m just so proud of everyone on this team.”
The Sierra Vista Junior All-Stars saw their season end Wednesday night with a 7-5 nine-inning loss to Nogales’ All-Stars. On Tuesday Nogales edged Sierra Vista 2-1.
Tied at 2-2, the game moved into extra innings. It was 3-3 going into the ninth when Nogales outscored Sierra Vista 4-2.
State playoff action begins this weekend for Sierra Vista’s 9-11 and 8-10 District 8 champion all-stars.
The 9-11’s will be in Litchfield Park in Phoenix taking on the winner of Friday’s opening-round game between Kingman and Round Valley Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
The 8-10 all-stars will play at 7:45 p.m. Friday night against West Flagstaff Little League at Silverlake Park in Tucson.
Willcox softball in final three
The Willcox All-Stars, who are representing District 8 in the 8-10 softball tournament in Cottonwood, remain alive.
Willcox, led by the pitching of 9-year-old Hattie Macumber, has won four consecutive elimination games after losing in the first round in extra innings.
Wednesday’s game with Queen Creek was rained out and was played Thursday evening.
The winner of that game will play Cactus Foothills of District 3, needing to win twice in order to win the state championship on Friday.