Morenci-Clifton Little League Majors take on unbeaten Pinal Mountain on Friday

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Jayce Ulibarri watches the pitch into the catcher’s glove, drawing a fourth inning walk. Morenci-Clifton (3-1) was granted 10 walks during the elimination contest Thursday. The Greenlee County team outlasted Mount Graham, 5-1, to face Pinal Mountain (3-0) on Friday.

Morenci-Clifton knocks out Mount Graham, 5-1

By Raymundo Frasquillo

Morenci-Clifton (3-1) takes on Pinal Mountain (3-0) on Friday, June 30, at 6:30 p.m. in the District 11 Little League playoffs. The Greenlee County boys have to defeat the Gila County boys twice to tack home the championship of the double-elimination tournament. A loss ends Morenci-Clifton’s season and assures Pinal Mountain a state meet berth.

“Anything is possible,” Morenci-Clifton manager Jose “Pepe” Saenz said. “We’ll take it one game at a time.”

Pinal Mountain topped Kearny 25-1 during four innings in game one, June 24, Hayden-Winkelman 8-2 in game three, June 26, and Morenci-Clifton 13-1 during four innings in game seven, June 28.

Morenci-Clifton advanced by edging Mount Graham 2-1 in game two, June 24, downing Duncan 13-3 during four innings in game four, June 26, succumbing to Pinal Mountain on June 28, and outlasting Mount Graham 5-1 in game nine, June 29.

Mount Graham (2-2) ousted Duncan (0-2) 9-6 in game six, June 27, and Kearny 13-1 during four innings in game eight, June 28; Kearny (1-2) eliminated Hayden-Winkelman (0-2) 12-1 during five innings in game five, June 27.

Morenci-Clifton vs. Mount Graham

Photo By Raymundo Frasquillo: Morenci-Clifton starting pitcher Daylen Johnson struck out 10, walked two, allowed four hits, and left with an 89-pitch count while facing 24 batters during 5 2/3 innings.

Despite a 4-run advantage with two outs in the bottom of the sixth inning, the game’s outcome was in doubt until the final out.

Mount Graham had the bases loaded with the tying run at the plate but the rally was cut short. An infield error allowed a runner on base, a two-out error put another runner on, and a walk loaded the bases after five batters took their turn. The sixth batter grounded out to end the season for Mount Graham, 5-1.

Mount Graham drew first blood and broke the scoreless deadlock in the bottom of the third when Erik Carrasco dispatched his  first pitch over the 200-foot right field fence.

“He had the green light,” manager Tommy Quintero said.

A ground out and strikeout halted the scoring. The Graham County boys sent four batters up in both the fourth and fifth, getting a two-out walk and two-out single, followed by strikeouts both times.

Morenci-Clifton tied the score with singled runner Gabe Hernandez crossing the plate on a two-out throwing error in the fourth. A walked Daylen Johnson scored the go-ahead run on a one-out Patrick Chavez sacrifice fly in the fifth. A walked lead-off batter Joseph Seballos was doubled in by Shaun Hudman with two outs, and a fielding error on a deep Hernandez fly allowed a walked Johnson and Hudman to score plus Hernandez to reach second in the sixth. A strikeout sent the Greenlee County boys on defense.

Morenci-Clifton batted .174 (4-23), fielded .920 (23-25), left 11 runners on base, and made two errors compared to .167 (4-24), .875 (21-24), eight stranded runners, and three errors for Mount Graham.

Seballos batted 1.000 (1-1), Hudman .500 (1-2, double, RBI), Hernandez .333 (1-3), Tony Roybal .250 (1-4) and Chavez 0-2 (sac., RBI).

Starting pitcher Johnson struck out 10, walked two, yielded four hits, and left with an 89-pitch count while facing 24 batters during 5 2/3 innings. Reliever Derek Saenz walked one and left with an 11-pitch count while facing three batters during 1/3 inning.

The rest of the team includes Evaristo Berume, Michael Casillas, Mateo Ciriello, Mateo Palomarez, Emilio Roybal and Jayce Ulibarri.

Jason McEuen and Tony Roybal also coach the team.

For Mount Graham, Carrasco batted .667 (2-3, home run, RBI), and both Landyn Larrabee and Derek Nabor .333 (1-3).

Starting pitcher Joseph Ruelas struck out one, walked three, and left with a 23-pitch count while facing five batters during 2/3 innings. Long reliever Wyatt Stahl struck out eight, walked one, allowed three hits, and left with a 58-pitch count while facing 15 batters during 3 1/3 innings. Short reliever Carrasco struck out two, walked five, and left with a 30-pitch count while facing eight batters during one inning. Closer Nabor struck out three, walked one, yielded a hit, and left with a 19-pitch count while facing six batters during one inning.

The rest of the Graham County team is Orien Barentine, Markus Carrasco, Marcos Guillen, Anthony Maldonado, Nathaniel Quintero, Damian “Monster” Rios, Jainacio Rains and Christopher Serna.

Mount Graham’s coaching staff also includes Josh Nabor and Andy Rios.