After the first inning, it looked like the Verde Valley All-Stars major team's game against Bagdad was going to be a closely contested six innings, but it turned into a blowout the following innings, with Verde Valley shutting down Bagdad 23-2 in four.
"Oh it was really big. We pumped them up and said, 'we really want this,'" said Verde Valley head coach Chris Taylor on his team's hot bats after the first inning. "The kids came out, and the first inning we were wondering if they wanted it or not, they were kind of on their heals, but then they started hitting the ball well and they started playing together as we've seen them play in the first couple of games, more so as a team, kind of woke up and started playing ball like Verde Valley knows how."
Bagdad came out and scored two runs, taking advantage of Verde Valley's pitcher, Chris Mathe, while he found his spots. When it was Verde Valley's at-bat, the all-stars tied the game up when Bagdad overthrew the catcher, and then the pitcher missed the catcher's toss. Bagdad was able to close out the inning, and that would be the quickest the Bagdad All-Stars would get out of the bottom of an inning for the rest of the game.
Chris found his spots at the end of the first inning, and continued his dominance in the second with the help of his defense. Bagdad went three up, three down at its' at-bat, while it was obvious the Verde Valley defense was beginning to click. Not only did the defense find its' groove, but Verde Valley's offense did as well.
After getting two runners on base, Verde's Kendrew Streck stepped up to the plate. Waiting for his pitch, Kendrew nailed his pitch over the center fielder's head and over the fence, bringing in 3-runs. Little did Bagdad know, but that home run would signal the end for the team and be forced to go to the lower bracket and make their way back into contention.
Verde Valley scored three more runs before Bagdad closed out the inning, and forced the first of Bagdad's three pitching changes.
Not only did Kendrew spur the offense with his homer, he helped the defense in a few ways. First was catching a line drive hit to first base, and for the rest of the game, he would take over mound duties for Chris. Kendrew made a statement against his first batter faced in the third stanza, with two outs, by striking him out and ending the inning, giving Verde Valley its' first 3-up, 3-down inning of the night.
What followed can only be described as the unraveling of Bagdad as the team made error after error and Verde Valley took advantage of that.
"Were we surprised at all? Yeah, I was," Taylor said. "They just came out hitting the ball. A lot of times, they have a hard time with slower pitchers, and they were able to wait on the slower ones and just started having batting practice and hitting the ball really well, so that was great."
The All-Stars' next at-bat, in the third, can be summed up as so; Verde Valley scored 7-runs before Bagdad recorded its' first out, following that first out, they scored 8-more, they went through the batting order almost twice, and forced two pitching changes, before ending inning.
Of those 15-runs tallied by Verde Valley, seven were from three separate home runs in the third inning. Dalton Zingali cranked the first one, a 2-run homer, his brother Chris hit the next 2-run jack and Trevor Hoke was the final player to go yard. Basically, if any more All-Stars had hit home runs, the umpires would have had to find more game balls because Verde Valley was taking all of them.
While those three, plus Kendrew, all hit bombs; every player on Verde Valley's roster found the pitcher's spots, most, if not all, coming from the third inning.
"That was really fun, and it's some of the kids that normally don't [hit home runs]," Taylor said. "Some of them, towards the end of our line-up, that's where it was really big. The top of our line-up was struggling a little bit; the bottom of our line-up came up, and lit it up. A lot of the kids on the bottom of the line-up are who hit it over and were really hitting well."
By the time Bagdad ended the inning, about 45 minutes after Verde Valley first stepped up to the plate, the team was deflated. They could not muster anything at their next at-bat, going 1-2-3 against Kendrew and his crew, a stout defense that gained a significant amount of momentum.
Now that Verde Valley is the lone undefeated team in the majors tournament, they get a break. After taking yesterday off, they will practice tonight before taking the field, hopefully for one last time, on July 11, at 6 p.m. The All-Stars will face the winner of Bagdad against either Prescott or Prescott Valley (who at the time of this writing have not played yet.) Whichever team they draw, Verde Valley will hold a mental edge over the winner. The All-Stars opened their tournament by beating Prescott 4-3 and followed that up with an 11-8 win over Prescott Valley, before running roughshod through Bagdad. The tournament is set up like other little league tournaments, with a "and one" game possible, if the undefeated team (in this case, Verde Valley) loses the first game, then the two teams will play one final championship game after the first game.
"I only want to go one game. I don't want it to go into two," Taylor said. "It's really important, just because of our momentum now, especially from this game, of scoring so many runs. Keep that going, keep the hits going, if we can keep that going into the next game, I think we can do well and should be able to come out with a win."