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Late rally lifts Prescott Valley All-Stars to 11U tourney title
Little League

The Prescott Valley All-Stars pose for a photo after claiming the District 10 11U All-Stars Tournament championship with a 9-8 win over Prescott on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, in Prescott. (Aaron Valdez/Courier)

The Prescott Valley All-Stars pose for a photo after claiming the District 10 11U All-Stars Tournament championship with a 9-8 win over Prescott on Tuesday, June 25, 2019, in Prescott. (Aaron Valdez/Courier)

PRESCOTT — A real nail-biter unfolded at Brad Ziegler Field as Prescott and Prescott Valley locked horns in Game 2 of the District 10 11U All-Stars Tournament Tuesday night.

It was the top of the sixth inning with runners in scoring position and all relief pitcher Colter Smith had to do was get one more strike to win the championship for Prescott Valley.

And wouldn’t you know it, Smith executes to perfection, striking out the Prescott batter to seal the 9-8 victory for his team. And while this play did win them the tournament, it probably tastes so much sweeter once one considers the staggering mountain Prescott Valley needed climb to even be in this position.

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Prescott Valley All-Stars starting pitcher Antonio Valenzuela throws a pitch in the first inning Tuesday, June 26, 2019, in Prescott. (Aaron Valdez/Courier)

“It feels great. The boys, they battled back hard,” PV manager Jeremy Martin said. “We kept telling them every game, ‘We’re in elimination, but we’re just going to play for tonight.’ And they kept going, they never let their guard down.”

Prescott had knocked Prescott Valley down into the loser’s bracket earlier in this double-elimination tournament, leaving Prescott Valley to work their way out by defeating Verde Valley and then edging out Prescott 13-12 in Game 1 on Monday to force Game 2 on Tuesday. This set up the ultimate clash between the two rival squads where Prescott came out looking to put the game away early.

Evan Dietrick opened the scoring for Prescott when he hit a huge triple to plate two runs. Prescott finished the first frame up 3-0, a lead they would hold onto for 90% of the contest. Dietrick started on the mound as well as he was in full control of his pitches to limit Prescott Valley to only two runs in the first couple innings.

“Our mindset with pitching [going into the game] was that Evan was going to go as far as he could, which he did. He ended up throwing 85 pitches, which is the max for his age,” Prescott manager Jason Gisi said.

Despite Dietrick’s solid outing, Prescott Valley kept within striking distance thanks to timely hitting from their usual sluggers like Matix Dunn, TJ Drape and Donovan Bayard. Prescott Valley even cut their deficit down to one in the third when Connor Wallace, Dunn and Drape strung together a few RBIs.

However, all looked grim for PV in the following inning when singles from Wyatt Gisi, Colton Champion and Dietrick in combination with a wild pitch helped Prescott extend their lead to 8-4. Dunn did manage to get an RBI single to score Casey Bauman in the bottom of the fourth, but PV was still in a three-run hole.

At this point, Martin opted to go with Smith to replace starter Antonio Valenzuela and relieve for the second night in a row. Valenzuela had himself a nice outing by preventing the game from getting out of hand as he finished with six earned runs and four strikeouts in four innings.

Smith went on to retire the side in the fifth inning, which lit a spark that ignited Prescott Valley’s comeback effort. After Bayard hit a towering double down center field to put him and Martin in scoring position, Smith smacked a single to score them both.

“We just told them, ‘Stay in the game. Let’s take one inning at a time. As long as we put runs up, we’re going to be OK and play our game and that’s what they did.” Martin said on his team’s comeback.

Prescott Valley eventually tied the game and still had the bases loaded, which set up a Trevor Field RBI single that proved to be the go-ahead run. In the top of the sixth, Prescott put runners on but as mentioned before, Smith was locked in and kept them from reaching home with two critical strikeouts to escape with a huge win.

“I felt good. I felt like I was going to strike some people out,” Smith said on his confidence level coming in to close. “I feel good though [getting the win] and it’s not really common to strike out people from Prescott so it’s a good experience.”

Jason Gisi said he couldn’t be any prouder of the way his Prescott team competed in its final game of the All-Stars campaign. Of course, he also had to tip his hat to Prescott Valley for their resiliency throughout the entire tournament.

“We were hanging tough and our kids competed. In the end, especially in a championship game, you got to be perfect to win it and unfortunately, we weren’t, but I couldn’t be any more proud of our team,” Jason Gisi said. “Prescott Valley had a ton of heart and their coaching staff was excellent and the kids never quit.”

Aaron Valdez is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier of Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter at @Valaaron_94. Email avaldez@prescottaz.com or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2031.

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