A day after shutting out Sierra Vista 18-0, the Nogales Little League 9-11 All-Stars needed some clutch relief pitching on Tuesday to get past the same Sierra Vista team a second time and clinch the Arizona District 8 championship.
Nogales took a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the fourth inning of Tuesday’s deciding game, but Sierra Vista scored one run and threatened for more after loading the bases with one out.
Xaciel Garcia came on in relief and got the first batter he faced to hit a ground ball to shortstop Esteban Vasquez, who threw to catcher Juan Pablo Tapia for the force out at home. Garcia then fanned the next batter to get out of the jam and preserve the one-run lead.
The score remained 4-3 heading into the top of the sixth and final frame, but Nogales mounted a two-out rally to pick up three big insurance runs.
It started when Garcia drew a walk with two down and stole second base. He then came in to score when the Sierra Vista center fielder couldn’t handle E.J. Mayer’s fly ball.
Ivan Molina followed with a double to left to score Mayer. However, when the throw home sailed past the Sierra Vista catcher, Molina came all the way around to score and put Nogales ahead 7-3.
Garcia, who pitched around a leadoff double in the bottom of the fifth, stranded another runner in the sixth to nail down the save.
The Nogales 9-11 All-Stars will next compete in the Arizona state championship tournament in Flagstaff beginning July 15.