A plucky group of nine aspiring baseball players — the minimum number needed for a team — Wednesday made Payson Little League history by winning both Area and District championships to earn a first-ever seed in the state tournament.
On July 11 in Lakeside, Payson’s 13- and 14-year-old “Junior” team overwhelmed Silver Creek 16-1 to remain undefeated in the postseason and nail down the program’s first District 1 title.
The team now advances to the Arizona Little League state championship scheduled to begin July 16 at Prescott High School.
Because Payson has received a first-round bye, the team will not play until the following day, Tuesday, July 17, at PHS. Game time is 8 p.m. vs. a yet to be determined opponent.
In whipping Silver Creek, for the second time in the District tournament, the Payson All-Stars relied on the pitching of Ruben Estrada, who hurled all five innings of the game shortened by the 10-run “mercy rule.”
In throwing 73 pitches, Estrada allowed only two hits and did not give up a single earned run.
Manager Tony McNeeley says the team executed his offense perfectly, as evidenced by the 16 base hits recorded.
Defensively, McNeeley lauded third baseman David Evans for his outstanding play at the hot corner.
During the course of both the Area and District tournament, the Payson celestial squad run-ruled every opponent, with officials stopping the game early when the Payson lead became insurmountable.
The league doesn’t keep official records on such accomplishments, but officials said they believe Payson’s string of 10-run-plus victories represents a first-ever in postseason play.
Payson All-Stars include Shadrach McNeeley, Taran Sarnowski, Ryan Ricke, C.J. Adcock, Jake Beeler, Grayson Barr, Bryce Goodman, Estrada and Evans.
Noah Sarnowski and Jeff Cochran are team coaches.