Bagdad dethrones Prescott Valley for Major’s TOC title
CHINO VALLEY — There is a new sheriff in town and it’s the team from Bagdad.
Everything was going right for Prescott Valley on their way to potentially capturing a second consecutive Arizona District 10 Little League Major’s Tournament of Champions title. The team had steamrolled its way through the Prescott Valley playoffs and handily defeated Prescott 14-4 and Wickenburg 17-0 in the first two rounds of this bracket.
Although much to their chagrin, Prescott Valley met their match in the championship game on Sunday, June 2, at Chino Valley’s Community Center Park where they were humbled 11-8 by Bagdad.
“[Bagdad is] a great team,” said Prescott Valley manager Jeremy Martin. “They pitched a young guy today and he threw well and they were a good hitting team. They’re were the best hitting team we faced all year and it showed today as they came out on top.”
Coming into the championship, Bagdad was no slouch by any means as they only dropped one game the entire season. They barely squeaked by Verde Valley 6-5 in the first round but stomped Agua Fria 12-2 in the second.
It was no secret Prescott Valley found themselves in uncharted territory during the first inning of Sunday’s game, giving up five runs to Bagdad. Colter Smith (2.2I, 2ER, 4SO, 4.50ERA) started on the mound for Prescott Valley and was luckily given some run support in the bottom of the first to make it a 5-4 game.
Bagdad had their own ace on the mound in Rowdy Hooper, who went 5.1 innings surrendering six earned runs, 10 hits and fanned six batters. After giving up those four early runs, Hooper kept Prescott Valley off the board for two straight innings, which was where Bagdad took advantage.
The third inning was when Bagdad essentially won the game, delivering a six-run onslaught to increase their lead to 11-4.
“That got them pumped up,” Bagdad manager Dylan Hooper said. “We’ve had times through the season where mentally they get down and at the end of the day, they’re still 9- to 12-year-old kids that get emotional about things and sometimes they let it carry on a little bit. But today, I felt like they kept that in check and stayed positive.”
Prescott Valley, however, still wasn’t down for the count and put their grit on display for the remainder of the contest. They began to chip away in the fourth inning, plating three runs to cut Bagdad’s lead down to four. Relievers Sammy Villafana and Jeremy Reynolds did well to keep Bagdad scoreless the rest of the way as they picked up a strikeout each.
In the final inning, Prescott Valley had the bases loaded and were a timely hit away from leveling the score. Smith launched a sacrificed pop fly to centerfield to give his team their eighth run but the comeback effort fell short when the next batter grounded out to give Bagdad the championship.
“We came out here and I felt pretty confident with what we had,” Dylan Hooper said. “I knew this was going to be a pretty good ball game so we came in here and I used my best two pitchers probably coming into this, and Rowdy did great job getting us through that game, and our hitting was there.”
Win or lose, Martin lauded his squad for the effort they showed not only in this game, but throughout the whole season.
“It was great and unfortunately we didn’t come out with the win at the end, but the boys battled hard,” Martin said. “We went from the worst team in the league last year to first place in Prescott Valley and took it all the way to the end, so I am very proud of all the boys.”
Aaron Valdez is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier of Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter at @Valaaron_94. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2031.