By Dave Wagner: Freedom Newspapers
First, the Roosevelt County All-Stars had the game in hand. Then, it was Clovis Zia. Then Roosevelt County.
Zia struck the final blow, however, rallying on Peyton Lott’s two-run, inside-the-park home run in the bottom of the sixth for a 16-15 victory on Saturday night in the 9-10 division winners bracket final of the District 3 Little League tournament at Rotary Park.
Lott’s game-winning hit atoned for a sixth-inning error that helped clear the bases and allowed Roosevelt County to assume a 15-14 lead.
Nate Salas lined a game-tying, two-run single to right with the bases loaded and two out. The ball eluded Lott, allowing Roosevelt County’s Payton Casey to score the go-ahead run and cap a six-run rally.
In the bottom half, Zia’s Zac Tenorio led off with a bunt single before Lott drilled the ball up the right-center alley and circled the bases with the winning run.
“There was a lot of offense,” said relieved Zia coach Dewey Patton. “We made too many mistakes, and those mistakes almost cost us.”
Roosevelt jumped on top with four runs in each of the first two innings, and extended the margin to 9-3 on Casey’s run-scoring single in the third.
Zia chipped away with two in the bottom of the third, then took a 14-9 lead after sending 13 batters to the plate in a nine-run fourth that featured two-run singles by Dakotah Yandell and J.J. Villanes.
After retiring the first hitter on strikes in the sixth, Lott gave up a single and two walks before Patton went to Yandell. Roosevelt County pulled close on a two-run single by Villanueva and an RBI infield hit by Casey, setting the stage for Salas’ go-ahead knock.
“Our kids showed a lot of composure,” Roosevelt coach Sammy Villanueva said. “They stepped up when I thought they were done, but Zia did the same thing.”
The teams combined for 31 hits and 11 errors. Alex Villanueva and Casey went 4-for-5 and combined to drive in seven runs, while Salas had five RBIs.
Lott, Villanes and Yandell all knocked in three runs for Zia, with Villanes finishing 3-for-4 and three others collecting two hits apiece. Lott also pitched 4 1/3 innings in relief before running out of gas in the top of the sixth.
“Wins like this really make you appreciate the talent these boys have,” Patton said. “They never give up.”
Zia awaits the winner of Monday’s losers bracket game between Quay County and Roosevelt County. Whoever wins that contest must beat Zia twice to take the title.
“This was a huge game,” Villanueva said. “But two years ago we got beat in the same game (in the 11-12 division) and came back and won it.”