Little League Begins Road To State

Coach sees potential in veteran team with good attitudes

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Last year's run to the Arizona State Little League tournament has convinced Ty Goodman he'd like to once again coach in the big show.

Goodman, a former Payson High School baseball standout, led the 2005 edition of the Payson Minor Division (9- to 10-year-olds) All-Stars to the state tournament in Phoenix. The team opened on a high note, winning two consecutive games, before being eliminated.

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Little League All-Stars (left to right) Cole Belcher, Brady O'Donnell and Cale Novak discuss strategy during a recent practice session.

This year, Goodman has been selected coach of the Major Division (11- to 12-year-olds) All-Stars and is convinced the team has the talent to return to state.

"We have some great pitchers and good hitting that should carry us," he said. "We are good enough to go to state."

Last year, the Payson Major Division All-Star team -- which included many of the same players now on the roster -- came within one game of earning a state berth.

The team advanced to the district championship game in Springerville, but fell in a 12-0 loss to Blue Ridge.

In the current group of All-Stars, Goodman sees a veteran team with tournament experience and also some of the intangibles that are so important to team success.

"The kids are great friends, they are like one big family and have good attitudes," he said.

The team begins pursuit of a state berth at 7 p.m. today, June 30, on Mark Grace Field in Flagstaff against the Flagstaff All-Stars.

The team also plays at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Grace Field.

Also in the Area One tournament will be Page, Tuba City, Flagstaff Mt. Elden and Flagstaff Coconino.

The top two teams from the Area One tournament will earn berths to play against Area Two's top two finishers. That tournament will be played next week, also at Mark Grace Field.

The champions of the Area One-Two shoot out advance to the district finals, and winners there go on to state.

"It's a long road, but we can do it," Goodman said.

Success in Little League tournaments usually hinges on good pitching, and Payson has a trio of topnotch hurlers in Westin Gibson, Jake Sleeper and Jordan Henderson.

Gibson and Sleeper enter the postseason armed with the experience of having pitched last year for the Major Division All-Stars.

Also on the squad are Cole Belcher, Hunter Goodman, Ray Lott, C.J. Nottingham, Cale Novak, Vince Beckham, Eric Cholla and Brady O'Donnell.

All-Star Justin Cobb will not participate in the tournament due to injuries he recently sustained in an ATV accident, Goodman said.

The team members were chosen in a voting of coaches at the conclusion of the regular season.

Goodman coached the Pirates to the regular season championship, posting a 14-3 record.

-- To reach Max Foster call 474-5251 ext. 114 or e-mail mfoster@payson.com.

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