One Yucca Little League all-star team was still in, and the other out, after the first three days of play at the Little League baseball state tournament in Raton. Yucca’s junior division all-stars were knocked out of the double-elimination tournament in two games, while the major division team remained in contention with a pair of wins after losing its first game.
Fresh off an emotionally charged win in the District 5 championship last Thursday, Yucca’s majors dropped the tournament opener to Roswell, 11-0, on Saturday.
“They are a tough team,” Yucca manager Roger Hathoot said of Roswell. “I think they’re the toughest team in the tournament.”
Yucca showed a little toughness of its own on Sunday when it came back and beat Carlsbad National, 12-4.
“We could have easily folded after losing that first game,” Hathoot said. “But we’re out here to win.”
Carlsbad scored two runs in the first inning to gain an early edge. But Yucca came back with a five-run second inning to take the lead for good. Michael Clayton and Edgar Lopez both drew walks, and Jesse Zazueta, Anthony Salazar, Pat Ryan, Nathan Zazueta and Tony Aragon had hits in the inning to drive the rally.
Ryan and Nathan Zazueta both had three hits in the game for Yucca. Jesse Zazueta and Aragon collected two hits apiece.
Ryan and Josh Gundrum shared pitching responsibilities and performed well, the coach said. “And they had a very good defense behind them that game,” Hathoot said.
On Monday, Nathan Zazueta and Cody Jaramillo helped power Yucca past host Raton, 8-2, with home runs. After Yucca had taken a 1-0 lead in the second inning on an RBI single by Ryan, the boys from Bosque Farms blew the game open with three runs in the third, including the two solo shots by Zazueta and Jaramillo. Nathan’s brother Jesse drove in runs with a double and a single in the contest.
Yucca employed a pitching-by-committee approach, appointing the Zazueta brothers, Salazar and Jesus Gandara to handle the chores.
Hathoot said the innings gobbled up by Jesse Zazueta, Gandara, Gundrum and Salazar allowed him to save the team’s aces, Ryan and Nathan Zazueta, for the remainder of the tournament.
Yucca was scheduled to play Albuquerque’s Eastdale Tuesday night (no score was available at News-Bulletin press time). Yucca needed to win games Tuesday and Wednesday in order to advance to the championship on Thursday.
Yucca juniors — The junior division team ran out of gas after making the trip to Raton. Also coming off an emotional extra-inning win in the District 5 championship game on Thursday, when they beat Mile High by executing a squeeze play, Yucca’s juniors were soundly beaten by Carlsbad National in the opening state tournament game on Saturday, 17-0.
“We came in pretty bruised up from the battle before,” said manager Joel Zazueta. “I think we ran out of gas after having just one day in between. The kids really didn’t play with a whole lot of fire.”
Yucca was eliminated from the tournament on Sunday, losing to Altamont, 8-7. Yucca showed some of the fire that got them there and battled to the end. “We had a last chance in the last inning to tie it,” Zazueta said. “One of our guys missed a home run by a foot.” It was Levi Davis who just missed the game-tying homer, banging a shot off the top of a 10-foot fence. The game ended with Davis stranded on the base paths.
“It was a disappointment, but overall we did beat some really good teams to get here,” the coach said. “We beat a good Mile High team and Socorro had a good team. We played our best ball in district.”