Payson Little League 13-14 years “Junior” All-Star baseball team manager Tony McNeeley is spewing superlatives over the contributions volunteer coach Jeff Cochran has made to the team in its bid to reach the state championships.
“He’s dedicated and he loves the game,” McNeeley said. “He has so much knowledge of the game and he’s a class act.”
“He has the players doing things that only older high school players do.”
In addition to Cochran’s contributions during practices, he coaches third base during tournament games.
The All-Stars are on a roll in postseason play having defeated Holbrook and Flagstaff Continental to win the Area 1 title.
Payson dominated, run-ruling both teams including whipping Holbrook by a whopping 23-2 margin.
In District 1 play in Lakeside, the Stars run-ruled Silver Creek 13-3 and are on the verge of winning the District crown and advancing to state.
But winning is nothing new for some of the All-Stars.
“They won the District (championship) as 10- and 11-year-olds,” said McNeeley.
In the win over Silver Creek, Taran Sarnowski started on the hill and was credited with the win.
He, however, was pulled after four innings on the Little League rule that prohibits hurlers from throwing more than 95 pitches in one game.
David Evans relieved Sarnowski for two innings before the game was called off on the 10-run mercy rule.
The game, McNeeley said, was closer than the final score indicated, “It was just 9-3 in the fourth inning.”
Payson’s late-game uprising, however, spelled the demise of Silver Creek.
While the All-Stars are stacked with pitching, they also have standout hitters including Ruben Estrada, C.J. Adcock and Evans.
McNeeley also praises the team’s defense saying all the players are solid in the field.
As good as the team has proven to be since the onset of play last spring, it does have a weakness — depth.
With only nine players on the roster, McNeeley, Cochran and assistant Noah Sarnowski constantly are on edge hoping a player is not injured or unable to play.
McNeeley said the Star team did have some reserves, but for a variety of reasons, they are not available to play in the postseason.
If the team does attain its goal of earning a state berth, it will be the first Junior Little League team in Payson to ever do so.
The state tournament will be played in Prescott.