The major division all-stars of Yucca Little League ended their improbable run for a state championship Tuesday night in Raton, losing to perennial division champion Eastdale, 11-5.
“Those guys (Eastdale) know what they’re doing because they’ve been there before,” said Yucca manager Roger Hathoot of the four-time defending division champions. “For us, it just wasn’t meant to be.”
The loss was Yucca’s second in the double-elimination tournament, ending the dreams of going to Williamsport, Pa., and the Little League World Series for the 12-year-old boys from Bosque Farms.
The odds were against Yucca from the start. Along with their junior division counterparts, the major division team was representing Yucca in a state tournament for the first time in its nearly three-decade-old history. And they were up against teams that had been through it before.
“We got a tough draw,” Hathoot said. “We had to play the two toughest teams. Roswell and Eastdale are very good teams.”
Yucca opened the tournament against Roswell. Less than 18 hours, and more than 200 miles, removed from its highly emotional 6-0 win over Mile High in the decisive game of the District 5 championships, the Yucca players had their hats handed to them by Roswell, 11-0.
Hathoot said he didn’t want to sound like he was making excuses or spewing sour grapes. But the fact is Yucca entered the state tourney weary while other teams at the tournament had a week’s rest.
“We were definitely at a disadvantage,” he said. “I don’t know if it would have made a difference, but we were pretty beat up.”
Yucca’s two top pitchers, Nathan Zazueta and Patrick Ryan, had both pitched Thursday night, and Hathoot didn’t want to use either of them on one day’s rest.
He also rested catcher Michael Clayton “He was worn out too,” the coach said of Clayton, who had caught every game of the playoffs for Yucca. “That’s a lot to ask of a 12-year old. He did his best. He played his heart out.”
The rest of the boys did too. Yucca came back on Sunday and beat Carlsbad National, 12-4, then eliminated host Raton, 8-2, on Monday.
Playing its sixth game in seven days, Yucca gallantly took on the Beasts of Eastdale Tuesday night, the winner advancing to play Roswell in the finals of the consolation bracket on Wednesday.
Zazueta’s two-run triple, scoring Anthony Salazar and Ryan, gave Yucca a 2-0 lead in the first inning.
The defending champs came back and tied the game in the bottom of the inning off Zazueta and added three more runs in the second to take a 5-2 lead.
Yucca answered back in its next raps. Salazar scored on a passed ball and Aragon and Clayton knocked in runs to tie the score, 5-5, in the third.
After that, Yucca could keep up no more.
“We were just too beat up mentally and physically,” Hathoot said. “Because, when you’re physically worn out, you get mentally worn out too.”
Eastdale tallied two runs in the bottom of the inning and put the game away with four runs in the fifth.
Maybe it wasn’t meant to be for this group of Yucca all-stars. But with two teams in the state championship for the first time ever, the boys could return again next season with the advantage of having been there before.
“I’d like to think it wasn’t a fluke,” Hathoot said.