Thu, Dec. 05

Verde Valley Little League goes 0-2 at State

Verde Valley’s Isaiah Sanchez pitches in the District 10 Little League all-stars baseball juniors tournament. VVN/James Kelley

Verde Valley’s Isaiah Sanchez pitches in the District 10 Little League all-stars baseball juniors tournament. VVN/James Kelley

Verde Valley Little League’s baseball juniors all-stars’ trip to the state tournament was only two games but thanks to lots of support they made a lot of memories.

Verde Valley lost 10-2 in the state tournament opener to Mesa on Saturday at Sierra Vista in southern Arizona. Then Chandler knocked out VVLL by a 14-3 margin on Monday.

“Honestly I thought it was going to be worse when you see those names pop up, you’re going in as an under dog but after seeing and participating in both games, both could have been won by our team and essentially we just beat ourselves in both games,” said VVLL head coach Ross Cowgill.

He said he’s proud of each and every boy on the team.

“They put in a lot of hard work in practices post district championships to prepare for state,” Ross Cowgill said.

Southern Arizona teams have dominated the tournament so far, with Sunnyside (Tucson) reaching the championship game with an undefeated record. Nogales, which is from the host district, lost to Sunnyside in semifinals and will await the survivor of Western (Tucson), West End (Tolleson), Winslow and Paradise Valley for the right to face Sunnyside in the championship game(s).

While Verde Valley played in the juniors state tournament last year, this year’s team was mostly new to the full sized field of juniors.

“We were a fairly young team this year as far as the all-star level went,” Ross Cowgill said. “We only have four kids on this team that have all-star experience at the junior level as far as going to State last year and last year’s team had a lot more seasoned veterans and older kids that had been exposed to that tournament play and playing out of town. So in that aspect we were fairly young. But I think a good portion, maybe were intimated by the venue, going to a state deal, playing big city teams. Coming from the Verde Valley and playing those, you kinda have to go in there with a David and Goliath mentality and that’s the only way you’re going to persevere.”

Ross Cowgill also praised the dedication of the other VVLL coaches, two of which didn’t have kids of their own on the team and just did it for their “passion for the game”: Steve Penrod and Chip Taylor.

He was also grateful to the parents and grandparents that took the time to drive the kids to Sierra Vista and back.

After winning the district championship, they fundraised “in a panicked effort.” His wife Krista Cowgill is a VVLL board member and at the softball state tournaments that Verde Valley hosted they had 50/50 raffles.

Plus they received a $500 donation from Marine Corps League Sedona Arizona Detachment. They were able to raise $2,500 and divide it amongst 13 players to help their families out.

“Those were huge,” Ross Cowgill said.

One of the families ran into a Bureau of Land Management wildland fire crew from Boise, Idaho at the hotel and they got to visit an airstrip there. The VVLL boys got to meet the firefighters, tour their helicopter, put on their gear, sit in the helicopter and talk to the pilots.

“As far as the whole trip goes, I think everyone enjoyed themselves, that’s a big commitment for families to make, to travel that far and stay in a hotel and fuel and food,” Ross Cowgill said.

Cactus Foothills sweeps

Cactus Foothills Little League’s softball all-stars painted the town highlighter yellow in the two state tournaments that Cottonwood hosted.

The CFLL 8-10 team opened with a loss to Gilbert but clawed through the losers bracket, including a 17-4 four innings win over Williams and a 16-3 victory over Flagstaff. They then beat Arcadia twice to win the championship.

The Cactus Foothills majors team opened with a 15-2 win over Thornydale from Tucson, then blanked San Xavier, also from Tucson, 11-0, then topped Holiday Park (Phoenix) 10-2 and beat Flagstaff 7-1 to reach the final. In the championship, they came back from an 5-3 deficit heading into the bottom of the eighth to score a walk off win over Flagstaff.

“Highlighter Nation” will represent Arizona in the Little League (majors) regional tournament in San Bernardino, Calif. against Montana on July 20 on ESPN3 at 4 p.m. The winner of the region tournament goes on to the Little League World Series.

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