Originally Published: June 28, 2018 6 a.m.
WILLIAMS — Chino Valley’s Little League Majors All-Stars battle Verde Valley in the Arizona District 10 tournament’s winners’ bracket final at 8 tonight, June 28, with a championship-game berth on the line.
Whichever team wins the final at Williams’ Cureton Park will qualify for the district title contest at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 30, against the losers’ bracket finalist.
The district tournament winner automatically earns a bid to the Majors State Tournament for 10-, 11- and 12-year-olds, which begins Tuesday, July 17, at Chaparral Park Ballfield, 5401 N. Hayden Road, and Scottsdale Ranch Park, 10400 E. Via Linda, in Scottsdale.
To reach this point, Chino Valley clobbered Wickenburg 20-1 in four innings in its opener on Monday and followed up the win with a 10-8 victory over Williams in Tuesday’s winners’ bracket semifinals.
“The kids are definitely swinging the bat, and that’s what’s making the difference,” Chino Valley coach Edgar Rocha said. “If we keep swinging the bats like we’ve been doing, it’s going to be a great game [against Verde Valley]. We’ll be able to come out on top.”
Versus Wickenburg, Jax Richey led Chino Valley at the plate with an inside-the-park homer, a triple, two RBIs and three runs scored. Connor Peterson (inside-the-park homer, three runs scored), Sarick Gutierrez (double, two RBIs, three runs scored) and Hector Vasquez (double, two RBIs) aided in the effort.
On the mound, ace southpaw Peterson nabbed the victory, notching seven strikeouts in 3-plus innings (45 pitches) on the strength of his fastball and changeup. Reliever Kelton Buchanan finished the game for Chino Valley.
Rocha said the hard-throwing Peterson will start tonight against Verde Valley of Cottonwood. If Chino Valley loses, it would drop into the losers’ bracket final at 7 p.m. Friday. The winner of that game advances to the title contest.
“He’s one of the few left-handed pitchers in the division here,” Rocha added about Peterson. “Kids are not used to seeing a lot of left-handed pitchers that throw as hard as he does, so that definitely gives us an advantage.”
Against Williams, Chino Valley trailed 5-4 in the third before pulling away with five runs in the fifth. Richey started on the mound and lasted three innings. He gave way to reliever Gutierrez, who closed out the contest. At the dish, Tucker Legler led Chino Valley, going 3 for 4 with two doubles, two RBIs and three runs scored.
“It’s a great group of kids that I’ve enjoyed coaching,” Rocha said. “They’re having fun playing with each other, and they have fun in the dugout. And we have a great coaching staff that the kids look up to and, at the same time, talk to the coaches without being intimidated by them and just have fun with the coaches. That’s part of making a great ball team.”
Prescott Valley, which faced Wickenburg in an elimination game late Wednesday night, beat Prescott 11-1 in four innings in its opener on Monday. PV lost a tight 6-5 decision to Verde Valley Tuesday in the winners’ bracket semifinals to drop into the losers’ bracket.
Two-time defending District 10 champion Prescott rebounded in the losers’ bracket on Wednesday night, eliminating host Williams 8-0 in six innings to stay alive. Prescott plays the Wickenburg-Prescott Valley winner in another elimination game at 6 tonight, June 28.
Against Williams, Prescott pitchers Wesley Amos and Isaac Reed combined for a two-hit shutout. Hayden Mickelson blistered a solo homer.
Prescott manager Anthony Kunow said his team’s 11-1 loss to Prescott Valley in Monday’s opener wasn’t “a full representation of who Prescott is,” although he respects PV’s pitching.
“We came here to three-peat, and that is still our plan,” Kunow added.
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.