The Ahwatukee Little League All-Stars 11-year-olds are heading to the state tournament after capturing the District 13 title Saturday at the Tempe Sports Complex.
The team clinched its district by beating Tempe South, jumping out to a commanding lead in the first two innings.
Meanwhile the Ahwatukee All Stars’ 10- and 12-year-olds lost in their district tournament play.
The 11-year-olds’ big win was powered by Connor Crossland’s grand-slam in the first inning. Coach Tim Romaine also praised the bases-clearing triple in the third inning by Vito Zilles as another key moment in the large victory.
“We did what we figured we should do,” Romaine said. “We got really good pitching all weekend from Bryce McKnight, PJ Alig, Zach Stevens, and Evan Gerken.”
The win Saturday might have been a little anti-climactic for the All-Stars after their Friday night victory over Chandler National South came down to the final pitch.
Ahwatukee held a 6-4 lead heading into the top of the sixth inning and with two outs, Chandler National had the bases loaded.
“Chase Schaefer struck out the final hitter of the game to secure the win,” Romaine said.
The district win didn’t come easily.
Ahwatukee lost its first two games in the tournament before rallying to win four straight elimination games, beating the No. 1-seed, Chandler National South, twice.
In the Ahwatukee team’s first game, the All Stars went into the bottom of the sixth inning leading 8-7 before committing a couple of crucial errors that led to the loss.
Romaine said the second loss, at 11-2, came against a strong pitcher.
“We got better as the games went on,” Romaine said. “The more we saw faster pitching, the more we were comfortable with it, and the better the players got along the way.”
Ahwatukee will now move on to the double elimination state tournament at Show Low.
Heading into the first matchup with Rio Rico on July 17, Romaine said his team is feeling good.
“We’re starting to swing the bats, everyone on the team is starting to swing the bats,” Romaine said. “If we get good pitching and make the easier plays on a consistent basis I think we’ll be right there at the end of it.”
Ahwatukee All-Stars have been successful in the State Tournament before, sending a team to the Little League World Series in 2006.