Little Leaguers Scrap With Tough Competition

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A 12-0 loss to Blue Ridge in the Little League Major Division District 1 championship didn't dampen Payson coach Eddie Duran's enthusiasm for his players.

"I was very proud to have coached them and proud of their team effort," he said. "Reaching the (district) championship was a great accomplishment for these boys."

In playing their way to the gold-medal finale July 9 in Springerville, the Payson all-stars were forced to win an area tournament finale and two crucial district showdowns against top-notch competition.

In the first district encounter, July 7, Payson rallied from a 9-2 deficit to whip the Holbrook Stars 10-9.

"That was an amazing comeback," Duran said following the nail-biting game.

The next evening, Payson rode the strong arm of Westin Gibson to a 8-1 victory over Page. A week earlier in the Little League Area 1 tournament in Payson, Page soundly thumped the Rim all-stars 14-2.

After falling to Page, the Payson stars rebounded in an area showdown to beat Winslow 5-1 and earn the berth in the district tournament.

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The Payson Little League Major Division all-stars' hitting, including that of Cale Novack (pictured), played a big part in the team reaching the postseason tournament.

Page advanced to the District 1 tournament as Area 1's No. 1 seed, and Payson traveled to Springerville as a No. 2 seed.

Against undefeated Blue Ridge, the Rim country team lost steam.

"We just ran out of pitching and hitting in the same game," Duran said.

The accomplishments of the major-division team coupled with those of the minor-division all-stars represents a feather in Payson's Little League baseball cap.

"It's the first time two (Payson) teams have gone to district in the same season," Duran said.

Payson's minor division all-stars won the Little League Area 1 and District 1 championships to earn a berth in the state tournament. The team began pursuit of state honors at 8 p.m. July 18 in Phoenix against District 2 champion Arrowhead (Results not available at press time).

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