Verde Valley Little league held on to beat Chino Valley and win the District 10 juniors baseball all-stars championship.
On Wednesday night at Riverfront Park, Verde Valley beat Chino Valley 15-13 to finish the tournament undefeated. CVLL scored six runs in the seventh inning to nearly stave off elimination but would have had to beat VVLL twice.
“It was exciting, I’m happy, glad they pulled it off,” VVLL head coach Ross Cowgill said. “It was a little bit nerve racking when we jumped out to that big lead there and then they came fighting back – I think it ended up within two – but the kids fought hard, they played hard. They had to bat against some speedy pitching to start the game, that a lot of them aren’t used to and they had good at bats, they stayed in the box, they didn’t chase junk and they knew where the strike zone was and they put the bat on the ball and it worked for them.”
Verde Valley advanced to the state tournament in Sierra Vista in southern Arizona, which starts on July 13. VVLL will face District 11, which is east central Arizona, in the first round.
In Wednesday’s game, Verde Valley jumped ahead 5-0 early on when Hunter Cowgill hit an RBI single in the first inning and then in the second when Isaiah Sanchez, Hunter Cowgill and Riley Pereira drove in runs.
Sanchez started the game on the mound, Pereira relieved him and Julian Esquer came into get the save.
“We had a lot of great hits all through the line up,” Ross Cowgill said. “Kids that normally didn’t hit hit the ball or got a walk or whatever else defensively. Riley was awesome in center field and kept a lot of runs from advancing by doing that, had some decent plays in the infield. I’m really happy with the pitching. Isaiah Sanchez did really good, getting us as far as he could until he reached his limit on pitch count, Riley did good trying to keep us into it and then little Julian Esquer coming in at the end and striking that kid out with bases juiced was impressive.”
Sanchez scored in the fourth and CVLL responded with four runs in the fifth.
However, VVLL answered right back with RBIs from Noah Wolowice, Konnor Douglas, Pereira and Ethan Cowgill as Verde Valley scored six in the fifth.
After CVLL scored two, Pereira drove in a pair and then scored in the home half of the sixth.
Verde Valley went 3-0 in the three-team tournament, opening with a 12-2 win over Chino Valley on Sunday. Then they beat Williams in the semifinals 22-10.
Chino Valley eliminated Williams with a 14-6 win on Tuesday night to set up the rematch with VVLL.
Last season Verde Valley sent both the majors and juniors baseball all-star teams so the state tournament. The majors won their district tournament and the juniors didn’t have one.
The VVLL juniors went 1-2 and the majors finished tied for sixth at State.
“Some of these kids are off that team,” Ross Cowgill said. “I’ve got four kids off this team that went State with me last year at the junior level down in Tempe Diablo and played well. A lot of them are young and moving up to the big field this year, so it’s a big adjustment to go 60 foot 6 on the mound and 90 foot bases so all in all I think they did really well.”
Ross Cowgill said the juniors state tournament is fierce. Junior league is ages 13 to 14.
“There’s a lot of big teams from big areas that have a lot to pull from and we’re a small valley — with exceptional ball players I think — but you run into some fierce competition, big kids, hard pitching, hard hitting baseball teams,” Ross Cowgill said.