Something that has never happened in the history of Yucca Little League happened Thursday night and it happened twice.

For the first time in its nearly three decades of existence, an all-star team from Bosque Farms’ Yucca Little League won a district championship when its junior division team squeezed out an 8-7 victory over Albuquerque’s Mile High Little League in extra innings. Then, about two hours later, another Yucca all-star team shut out their counterparts from Mile High, 6-0, to clinch the District 5 title in the major division.

“That’s amazing. That’s incredible,” marveled Roger Hathoot, manager of Yucca’s major division team, at the end of the night. “It really is extremely surprising that both of us did it in the same season. We’re a small Little League. To put winning all-star teams together out of that group is pretty incredible.”

Both teams needed to win just one of a possible two games in the double elimination tournament played at Albuquerque’s Zia Little League ballpark to win the district and advance to the state tournament. It took the majors two games to complete the task, after losing the first game 8-2. The juniors did it in one game but had to work overtime. The incredible finish occurred with two out in the bottom of the eighth inning, Joel Zazueta at third base and Michael Chenoweth at the plate.

“Michael had been struggling most of the day at the plate, hitting pop-ups,” explained Darrell Davis, who serves as an assistant coach to manager Joel Zazueta. “He suggested to coach Joel to lay down a suicide squeeze, and coach told him, ‘If you can do it, do it.'”

Chenoweth’s idea was a good one. He pushed a perfect bunt down the third base line and just barely beat the throw to first base. Meanwhile, Zazueta raced across the plate with the winning run.

“I was bunting good all year, and I had to make up for my bad hits,” Chenoweth said. “I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to get the bunt down. We’ve got to win the game. I want to go to Raton.'”

Both Yucca teams will play their opening games in the state tournament on Saturday in Raton. The juniors play at 9 a.m. against the District 6 champs. The majors play at 11 a.m. against the District 2 champion.

Yucca’s juniors were on the verge of losing the game after Mile High came from behind to take a 7-6 lead in the sixth inning. But, in the bottom of the inning, Yucca’s Curtis Graham hit a solo home run to tie the score.

Graham started the game on the mound for Yucca and went five innings. Casey Sangre pitched two innings of relief and left-hander Michael Malarsie earned the win by pitching the eighth.

The Yucca juniors won all five games they played in the tournament, but three of them were nail-biters.

“We have a lot of heart. We don’t give up when things look grim,” Chenoweth said.

Ironically, Chenoweth, whose squeeze bunt broke Yucca’s long district-title drought, is the grandson of parents who helped found Yucca Little League. His father, Paul, played on the first Yucca all-star team and is now an assistant coach for the juniors. Paul estimated the league has been in existence for 27 or 28 years.

Irony could also be found in Yucca’s major division win. Pitcher Nathan Zazueta earned the win with a complete game shutout to close out the championship for Yucca. He also won the first game of the tournament with his bat.

“It might sound crazy, but it’s like fate,” said manager Hathoot. “The first game, we were down 2-0 and down to our last strike. Edgar Lopez had two strikes on him, and he got a single. Patrick Ryan almost hits it out and gets a triple. Then Nathan hits it out and we win 3-2.”

Hathoot said the tournament might have been a lot tougher if his team had lost that game and had to fight its way through the loser’s bracket. The road to Raton was rough enough as it was.

In the first game, Yucca had trouble figuring out Mile High’s ace pitcher.

“I knew they were going to throw their best pitcher at us in that first game, and he was good,” Hathoot said. “He mixed it up, and he was hard to get a hold of. We were able to hit their second kid a lot better.”

“After losing the first one, we were more determined the second game,” said Patrick Ryan, who drove in the only run Yucca needed to win the game in the first inning. Ryan, who hit a two-run homer and a grand slam in Yucca’s 12-1 win over Enchantment of Los Lunas in the semi-final game on Wednesday, laced a line drive over the shortstop’s head to score Jesse Zazueta from second base.

Yucca gradually added on to the lead while Mile High had no luck solving Nathan Zazueta’s pitching.

So, for the first time ever, Yucca Little League will be sending not only one but two teams to the state tournament. And the boys from Bosque Farms are hoping to continue making history.

“It feels great to win. But we’ve still got a lot more baseball to play,” Michael Chenoweth said.

Joshua Gundrum of the major division team was confident Yucca could come home from Raton with a state championship.

“We took District 5 by storm, and we’re going to take Raton by storm,” he said.

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