Originally Published: June 26, 2018 11:18 p.m.
Prescott vs Prescott Valley D10 U11 Little League
PRESCOTT — In a dominating performance, Prescott’s 11U Little League All-Stars bested Prescott Valley for the second time in four days to capture the Arizona District 10 All-Star Tournament title and advance to the state tournament next month.
Prescott shut out Prescott Valley 13-0 in a run-ruled four innings Tuesday night behind another masterful start from pitcher Adrian Sanderford and the trusty bat of leadoff hitter Dominic Cruz, who went 2 for 4 with an RBI double and two runs scored at Ziegler Field in Prescott.
“We said throughout our practices leading up to the tournament that we started off a little slow and the coaches felt like the team wasn’t quite clicking,” Prescott manager Terry Magnett said. “But in the last two or three days leading up to the tournament, a couple things started to turn and you could just see it in the boys – the at-bats in practice, the fielding, everything just got a little bit better. I kind of felt like we were peaking at the right time.”
Prescott blistered Prescott Valley, 11-1, in their first matchup of the three-team tournament June 23, and Sanderford made a big difference in that one, too.
“I tried to do the same as I did Saturday, except I tried to throw more strikes and hit my spots more,” said Sanderford, who effectively mixed his off-speed stuff with his fastball Tuesday. “That win on Saturday gave us a huge boost of confidence, and we were excited for the next two games.”
On Sunday, Prescott blanked Chino Valley, 10-0, to reach the title game. Prescott’s first two wins came in a run-ruled five innings. Prescott wound up outscoring the opposition a combined 34-1 and truly wasn’t challenged in this tournament.
On Monday, Prescott Valley qualified for the championship game by eliminating Chino Valley, which received the opening-round bye, 11-1 in five innings. Meanwhile, Prescott got the day off, which allowed the squad to rest its deep pitching staff.
Sanderford went the distance on Tuesday, tossing a two-hit shutout. He didn’t allow a hit until the third inning and neither of the hits he allowed went for extra bases. Sanderford, a groundball pitcher, notched three strikeouts, walked one and hit a batter.
Prescott Valley struggled defensively in the field Tuesday and once more couldn’t solve Sanderford.
“If he didn’t pitch strikes, we wouldn’t have won,” Cruz said.
In Saturday’s win, Sanderford surrendered two hits and an unearned run. He fanned five, walked one and hit a batter.
“They played good and we didn’t,” Prescott Valley manager Matt Hepperle said of Prescott. “That’s the bottom line. If our guys make a couple bad plays, they get down on themselves and they carry it over. I just wanted us to play fundamentally sound, which we did the first couple innings.
“It’s a good experience for the boys, and it’s an honor for them just to make an All-Star team.”
At the dish, Sanderford aided his own cause Tuesday, going 2 for 3 with a pair of singles and a run scored. Ethan Warren and Zane Gaul added an RBI single apiece. Catcher Jacob Patterson and Trace Overton chimed in with an infield single each.
Patterson, who credited his aunt Heidi Ackzen for helping him improve his catching, said he was proud of his team for making adjustments, working together and encouraging each other in the district round.
“It feels great to make state,” he added. “I think we’ll do good.”
Added Sanderford, “We’re going to try to get first [place] this year. There’s this team called Rincon [from Tucson] that we’re going to try to… we’re coming for them.”
In 2017, most of the Prescott 11U boys played on the Minors team that placed third at state. They are setting their sights higher this year.
“We came back from last year as defending champions [District 10 Minors All-Stars], so we were wanting to defend our field again,” Cruz said. “But now we’re going to state. We got third last year, so we’re coming for everyone now.”
Magnett said experience should boost Prescott’s fortunes.
“These kids have a ton of confidence going right now,” he added. “I like what I’m seeing. I can see room for improvement, but we’re on the right track and we’re playing all facets of the game really well right now, and that’s a great thing.”
Prescott will compete in the 11U State Tournament that starts Saturday, July 14, at Fiesta Sports Complex, 800 S. Extension Road, in Mesa near Queen Creek. Prescott is scheduled to face the District 5 champion in the opening round.
Doug Cook is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.