Pirate Ace Trumps Cubs

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Baseball fans were treated to a duel of perhaps the finest pair of Payson Little League pitchers when the major division Cubs and Pirates locked horns at Rumsey Park.

When the dust in the much-anticipated clash had settled, Jake Sleeper of the Pirates walked off the mound with a 3-1 win over Westin Gibson and his Cub teammates.

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A pair of Red Sox players hopes this infield throw is on time to catch an opposing base runner. Little League play has heated up the Rim Country sports scene since it tipped off April 1.

"It was a great pitcher duel," Pirates coach Ty Goodman said. "Jake gave up just one hit and it was to Westin in the first inning."

The Cubs scored their single run in the fifth inning on a walk and several errors, Goodman said.

The Pirates jumped out to a 2-0 lead early on a base hit by Sleeper, an error and Jordan Henderson's sacrifice fly.

Blake Cannon's line shot down the third base line in the fifth inning eventually turned into an inside park home run and the Pirates third run of the game.

With the win, the Pirates improve to 4-0 and all alone in first place in the league standings.

The Cubs, coached by Tom Belcher, are 3-1.

Although the Pirates were victorious, the Cubs have a trio of upcoming opportunities to avenge the loss.

"We meet three more times this season," Goodman said. "Either team is good enough to win."

Also in the major division, for players 9 to 12 years of age, depending on ability and experience, are the White Sox, Diamondbacks, Cardinals and A's.

Seventy-two players compete in the majors, making it the largest of the three Payson Little League divisions.

In the minors, also made up of 9- to 12-year-olds, four teams and 52 players compete on the A's, Cubs, Red Sox and Diamondbacks.

This year, for the first time, 8-year-olds are allowed to participate in the minor division rather than being restricted to the "coach pitch" league, as was the rule in the past.

The AAA or "coach pitch" league has about 60 aspiring players participating on the Giants, Pirates, Diamondbacks, Angels and A's.

Little League games are played Monday through Saturday on the Rumsey I and Rumsey III fields.

The season began April 1 and will continue until the middle of June when area and district all-star tournaments begin around the state.

Last year, the 9 and 10-year Payson all-star team won both the area and district tournament, with a defeated record, before falling in the state tournament.

Goodman, the coach of that team, has predicted that this year's all-star team could repeat that accomplishment.

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