Sometimes a seemingly small act can make all the difference.
At least, that was part of the case for the Verde Valley All-Stars Majors team's rebound win, 7-5, over the Prescott All-Stars in the championship game of the District 10 All-Stars Majors tournament.
The two teams first squared off on July 11, with Prescott edging Verde Valley 10-9 by taking advantage of Verde Valley's defensive errors.
The next day, head coach Chris Taylor called each one of his players and asked them a simple question.
"They were deflated last night, I could tell," Taylor said. "I knew that, going into this today (July 12), I only had 24 hours to try and pump them up. I called each one of the boys and I told them today, 'hey, I want a commitment from you to back up your pitcher tonight,' and each one of them committed to do that, and it showed on the field that they backed him up. I pumped them up, said what great ball players they are, and I think that really helped to motivate them."
With each member of his team personally telling him they were going to give it their all and back up their pitcher, the All-Stars played as close to a perfect defensive game as they could have.
It started with Justin Tanner, who minded the mound for the first five innings. Aside from a few hiccups here and there, he was on point and had confidence in his defense to back him up.
"Last night (July 11), they didn't [back up the pitcher], and there was like eight errors, and that was the difference in the ball game, 10-9 Prescott," Taylor said. "Tonight, the difference was us on defense. We were hitting the ball well last night, and tonight, but the difference was our defense came alive and really backed up our pitcher tonight."
Adding to the defense was catcher Chris Mathe, who not only received praise from his coach for his ability to stop balls and limit the number of pitches that get by him, but also from Prescott's head coach.
"Chris Mathe did a heck of a job," Taylor said. "He blocks the plate really well, blocks the ball. In fact, the Prescott coach told me last night, he asked, who that catcher was, and wanted to know, and said 'that's a heck of a player there that you have behind the plate.' Well done by him, well done by our pitchers and well done with us backing our pitchers up."
Offensively, Verde Valley had its' bats swinging. Early in the first inning, with runners on first and second, Tyre Kim got his team on the board first when he hit a single that brought the runner on second in.
Then J.D. Caldera stepped up to the plate. Caldera may not have been the biggest player on the field (in fact, he may have been the smallest), but that did not stop him from going yard and bringing in three runs, his first home run of his career.
"It felt good because I got 3-runs in, and started it off [the offense]," Caldera said.
Once Verde Valley took the lead, Prescott would tie the game in the third, but never be able to overtake the program.
"That was so exciting, that pumped everybody up. It pumped him up, it pumped everybody up," Taylor said. "That's his first home run ever, in little league, so that was awesome. I was really excited for him. And that was key right there, where in the first inning, it put us up by four, 4-0, a 3-run homer right there that really got us going. Got the excitement, got the bats going for us."
The next few innings had Prescott chip away at the gap between them and Verde Valley, with the game tied after Prescott's third inning at bat. Verde Valley answered back in the same inning, first with J.D. hitting a RBI and getting to first, and then with bases loaded, Dalton Zingali notched a RBI as well before Prescott closed the inning.
The fourth inning was the closest inning of the game, with both clubs at-bats mirroring each other. Prescott mustered one hit against a clicking defense that was not letting much of anything get by them. Verde Valley encountered the same stout defense during its at bat. That would be the last inning Prescott managed to shut down Verde Valley's offense.
Down by two, Prescott made it a 1-run game before it was forced back onto defense.
Kendrew Streck started things for Verde Valley's at bat with a single, and was advanced to second following a bunt from J.D., who was thrown out at first. Chris Zingali, not to be outdone by his brother, stepped up to the plate and nailed a pitch into the gap between the shortstop and third baseman, bringing in the final run of the game.
Prescott knew what it had to do in the sixth, and final inning, score enough runs and hold Verde Valley at its' next at bat, to either force extra innings or win the championship. That was easier said than done.
After five stellar innings from Tanner, Taylor brought in Chris Zingali to close the game, and close he did. In a 1-2-3 inning, one runner was thrown out at first following a grounder to third, and the other two Prescott batters went down swinging, awarding Verde Valley with the District 10 championship.
"I just knew I had to pitch hard, do a good job and get the game over with," Zingali said. "All my infielders were being great motivators. On my first throw, my first pitch, he just hit the ball to short and they (Zingali's teammates) came in and they were like, 'good job, good job.' Yeah, after that I got a whole bunch of heads-up, all six pitches!"
Next up for the 12-13-year-olds is the state tournament in Gilbert, starting on July 18. The Verde Valley All-Stars will get an opening round bye and face the winner of Chandler National South and Casa Grande the following day, July 19.
"I hope we win," Caldera said. "We can make it really far if we back up our pitcher and play to the best of our ability, never give up [and] we'll make it far."
Posted: Monday, July 15, 2013
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These boys and their coaches have dedicated there summer to the Verde Valley Little League. Many days with 7 hours of practice. Not to mention the hours in the car heading to and from 8pm games in Chino Valley. Now they are heading to the state tourney in Gilbert along with there families. So, if a parent or player approaches your company for a tax deductible donation sponsorship please help out if you can. These boys are amazing to watch, just like Pros, just at a smaller scale!