Preview: Local clubs prep for All-Stars 11U tourney starting Friday in Prescott
PRECOTT — The Little League All-Star season is nearly underway and the Prescott, Prescott Valley and Chino Valley 11-year-old teams have begun revving up their engines in hopes of taking the crown in the District 10 11U All-Stars Tournament.
The tournament will be a double-elimination bracket and feature a field that includes three of the aforementioned teams plus Verde Valley. The competition will kick off Friday and potentially last through Tuesday if the final needs a decisive second game.
Prescott will take on Verde Valley while Chino Valley will face off against Prescott Valley for the opening match-ups. All games will be held at 1185 Commerce Dr., Prescott.
The all-stars from Prescott are licking their chops to jump right into the District 10 tournament. Last year, when some of the players were on the minor’s team, they lost in the tournament finals to Verde Valley, who is now their first opponent this time around.
Manager Jason Gisi said he is looking forward to get back out there with his team that is seemingly stacked with a lot of talent, especially on the defensive end. The team has already been practicing for roughly three weeks.
“It feels great [to be back out there],” Gisi said. “The players that are on the all-star team are excited to be there and they work hard. We have a really good group of young men and they’re from real good families.”
Prescott certainly isn’t lacking in the pitching department as Gisi boasts a solid rotation that includes top guys like Jake Diener and Colton Champion. As far as hitting goes, the team runs deep with sluggers like Evan Diedrick, Wyatt Gisi, Diener and Champion.
“Our 11-year-old group is very solid. Lots of pitching, good defense but the question is, ‘How well are we going to hit the ball?’” Gisi said. “But we have a good group of kids. They compete and I am excited to see how they play.”
Experienced manager Jeremy Martin has a really good feeling about his Prescott Valley all-stars as he said this might be one of the best all-round teams they’ve fielded in quite some time.
“We have a lot of good talent on the team,” Martin said. “I think up and down our entire lineup, we have good hitters and we have deep pitching this year, which in years past we didn’t really have, but this year we do have.”
Matix Dunn will be Martin’s No. 1 player to man the pipes for the pitching rotation because of his hard fast ball and off-speed pitches, which is pretty rare to see at this age. Connor Wallace will also see plenty of time on the mound because of his ability to consistently pound the strike zone.
While Martin is a defensive-minded coach, he said that his team is more than capable of holding their own at the plate as well.
“I think what makes us really good is our depth at pitching and our hitting because we know we are going to have good defense and we got the other two as well. So putting them all together obviously in one game is really tough, but if we can do pretty well at each of those, we stand a pretty good chance,” Martin said.
Last year, the Martin-managed 11U team went 1-2 in the tournament where they defeated Chino Valley but fell short twice against Prescott. 10 of the 12 players on this year’s roster are returning all-stars.
The Chino Valley all-stars are ready to make their mark in this year’s tournament. This will be the first time manager Matt Lemons will have coached the 11-year-olds but he’s lauded his players on how far they’ve come since the beginning of the regular season.
“[The players] have come a long way, especially since the beginning of our season this year,” Lemons said. “They’ve already gone from one team to playing on whole new team and having to figure everybody out and just learning to play with each other, they’ve already come a long way.”
Pitchers Todd Caden and Teegan DeBono will be Chino Valley’s go-to guys on the bump but Lemons said he’s got a nice handful of options should they need to go that deep into the bullpen.
The team’s tournament opener will be against Prescott Valley, whose roster features many players that play travel ball.
However, Lemons is still feeling confident and said the key to success will be to have a good balance of offense and defense.
“You got to have good bats and good base running. That’s a huge part of the game and you got to have a good defense out on the field and behind your pitchers and a good catcher,” Lemons said. “But regardless of whether we do really well or if we’re two-and-out, it was a great experience for the boys and a great experience for me to be able to coach an all-star team.”
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.