The Men of Teal had one blockbuster of a summer.
For the first time in at least a decade the Ahwatukee Little League advanced three teams to Monday’s District 13 tournament finals.
It brought the community out in droves, wearing their patented teal and black associated with the ALL, to Snediger Sports Complex as parents and supporters lined the outfield and filled the bleachers to support three different-aged teams.
“This is pretty special,” ALL president Mike Kearney said. “We are not sure when the last time this happened, but we’re pretty pleased it happened. We’ve been building towards this and feel like it is something we can keep going.”
While only one of the three, the 10-11-aged team, won the district title to advance to the state tournament, the evening at Snediger was pretty memorable for the league.
The 9-10 squad came into the game as a scoring machine, including an 18-4 win in the semifinals, before coming up short against Chandler American, 5-1, in the title game as players like Dean Bittner, Zeek Hilton, Dylan McKee and Brad Somero played hard through all six innings.
The Majors squad, made up of 11 and 12 year olds, had its fantasy of playing in the Little League World Series end in a difficult 14-0 loss to Chandler National South, but that five-inning debacle in no way took away from what this team accomplished.
The team showed what it was about in a 4-3 extra inning win over Chandler National North that saw a little controversy in what was an illegal substitution because of a miscommunication (the scorekeeper was told, but the umpire and opposing coach was not).
There was lengthy delay but the ALL squad, behind players like Connor Murphy, Andrew Cardellini, Morrison Dietz and Boston Pectol, didn’t have a letdown and pulled out the win.
The ultimate prize for the Majors is a trip to the Little League World Series and the way the Chandler National South squad tore through the field, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the West Region represented by this team so there is no shame in losing to a team that has the talent to possibly compete at the national level.
The star squad of the night was the 10-11s as it beat Chandler National North, 6-5, after jumping out to a 6-0 lead behind big hits by Matthew McKeon and Antonio Passmore, while Jacob Mitchell pitched well in relief.
First baseman Andrew Ash, who had just enough shaggy blonde hair sticking out of his cap to bring back memories of Tanner Doyle of “The Bad News Bears” fame, made some great scoops at first base, while Alex Ramirez gave up with a chance at another national title in the javelin to be a part of something special this summer.
The team advances to the double-elimination state tournament in Mesa at Countryside Park (Southern and Lindsay) with play starting on Tuesday.
Most of these players lost in the district finals last season.
“This was a total collective effort,” manager Mike Mettner said. “All 12 kids were tremendous and everyone contributed one way or another and that’s what wins championships.”
And now they sit about five wins away from a state title.
“That’s what we want,” McKeon said. “We’ve played really good together and get a chance to play for state.”
While the 10-11 will be celebrated for another week or so, really the whole ALL has something to be proud about as the community has put in the time to resurrect the passion for the game.
In two years, the number of participants has grown from about 275 players to close to 450, with a 40 total teams. There are many reasons for it, including the annual barbecue in April that saw around 700 people show to a wide-spread desire to grow and shape the league to being the best in District 13.
Considering it was the only one to advance to the semifinals in all three age groups it is clear the Men of Teal are in line for a sequel rather being a one-hit wonder.
“I can’t say strongly enough how grateful I am for all of the time and effort the community has put in the last two years,” Kearney said. “Our goal is to give the teams every chance to succeed.
“They are why so many volunteers put in so much time. What they accomplished this year makes every second worth it. Seeing all these people here wearing our colors and having a team represented in each championship game is pretty special.”
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