Pitching, defense pave way for Valleyall-stars
Thanks to a simple mixture of pitching, defense and teamwork, the Carson Valley Little League 11-12 all-star team has two wins under its belt and now finds itself one step away from a return visit to the Nevada District 1 Tournament championship game.
Carson Valley will face Washoe in the district winners bracket final tonight at 7:30 p.m. on Field 2 at Governors Field in Carson. The winner of this game moves on to the tournament’s championship round to await the survivor of the double elimination bracket.
Carson Valley advanced by defeating Reno Continental on Friday night, 12-8, followed by a 5-2 triumph against Sparks Centennial on Sunday afternoon.
Washoe is also 2-0 after its 4-0 win over Reno American on Sunday, and traditionally one of the strong programs in District 1 Little League (representing the Lake Tahoe, Reno, Sparks, Carson City and Carson Valley area).
“Washoe is another strong team, so we’ll have to come prepared,” Carson Valley manager Clint Celio said at practice on Monday.
The District 1 champion qualifies to play in the four-team Nevada State Tournament starting on July 18 in Carson City.
First off, Carson Valley got past Reno Continental in a rematch of last year’s district 11-12 tournament finals. Reno Continental defeated Carson Valley twice in the 2017 tournament.
Friday’s rematch went back and forth, and in the end, Celio credited pitching and defense as the difference.
“If you go back and look at our games this year versus last year, we’re putting a lot more runs on the board,” Celio said. “We’re hitting this year and none of them have been huge hits. I don’t think we’ve had anything more than a double. It’s all been base hits. They’re putting the ball in play, they’re hitting it on the ground, they’re smart on the bases and taking advantage of the opportunities.”
Winning that first game was an achievement in itself. Reno Continental had already advanced past its opener, 13-3 against Reno National in a contest that went back-and-forth through the early innings.
“Reno Continental is a very solid team,” Celio said. “They threw some great pitching at us and they’re a strong defensive team. To be able to put 12 runs up against them speaks highly of our guys.”
Aaron Moss and Isiah Middaugh shared the pitching duties against Reno Continental in a game Carson Valley led 1-0 in the first inning and then rallied back from a 3-1 deficit.
On Sunday, Owen Evans and Keegan Snooks handled the pitching in a game that saw Carson Valley take a 5-0 lead to the sixth inning.
“They had runners on base at various times, but Owen was able to pitch through it and the defense was able to come through behind him,” Celio said. “And then Keegan came on and closed it out in the last inning.”
There was some emotion involved with Sunday’s win for the Carson Valley players, some of whom finished the game and then attended a memorial service at Minden Park for longtime league president and board member Debbie Jacobsen.
“Boy, that was nice,” Celio said of the service. “You can’t help but think maybe we’re getting a little push from up above.”
He went on to add that the way this team has come together epitomized what Jacobsen believed in.
“This year, we have an all-star team that not only has players from the mix of majors teams, but our coaching staff is also three managers from the different teams,” Celio said, adding that managers from the regular season championship teams often keep their coaching staffs together for postseason tournament play. “But this year, I managed the Cardinals, Bo Jackson managed the A’s and Tim Davis managed the Giants and the three of us have come together to take the all-star team.
“It’s been a really good mix and I think Debbie would have appreciated everybody coming together and trying to put one together. So, yeah, it’s exciting.”