SIERRA VISTA — About the only thing that did not go as planned for the Sunnyside Juniors All-Star team all week here in the state tournament was the celebratory water dousing after earning a championship.
Instead of the normal scene of the coach or manager getting wet from the ice water from the Gatorade jug, Sunnyside’s Emilio Lizarraga and Gerardo Ortiz went from coach to coach and some players unable to do the job. Lizarraga ultimately turned on Ortiz and poured all the water on him to the delight of the team, which had reason to be overjoyed, unbeaten in four games in the tournament.
A few minutes later, they all rounded the outfield warning track at Arbenz Field running with the Little League championship banner, as is customary. Sunnyside’s various levels of Little League baseball taking part in this celebration is becoming an all too familiar scene as well.
“It would be nice to see three of our teams make the World Series,” said Sunnyside Juniors manager Paul Pinedo, who looked over to see his son Diego, one of his team’s stars, get mobbed by his teammates.
“That would be incredible.”
Two of Sunnyside’s teams are now in West regional action with its Junior All-Stars run-ruling Nogales 14-3 in five innings Sunday at Arbenz Field. The team starts play in the regional tournament at San Jose next weekend.
Sunnyside is not a stranger to success. Its Majors team advanced to the regionals last year, losing to Hawaii, which went on to win the Little League World Series championship in Williamsport, Pa.
The Seniors team also made the regional tournament.
Miguel Traslavina with an RBI double to help fuel a three-run rally to give Sunnyside an 8-1 lead over Nogales at the bottom of the third. pic.twitter.com/N15zytQ9qo
This year is different because three teams stand a good opportunity of advancing to the regionals and they are dominating. None of the three teams have lost in the district, state and regional tournaments, combining for a 19-0 record, many of the wins by mercy rule.
Pinedo reasoned the dominance is a result of last year’s success and “a lot of the kids from Little League age are coming out now.”
“They’ve seen it and a lot of their friends are telling them, ‘Hey, it was fun,'” he said. “Kids that never played or stuck to club ball are starting to come out.”
Sunnyside's Diego Pinedo made it to the West Regional Major Little League tournament last year with Sunnyside (which lost to Hawaii team that made it to Williamsport) but says making it to the West Regional Junior tournament is the best he has felt in his youth baseball career. pic.twitter.com/6B4h2coV1H
Diego Pinedo, Jovanni “Bambi” Toledo and Lizarraga were part of the team that went to the West regionals last year with Majors team.
Pinedo was the winning pitcher Sunday, not allowing an earned run in four innings with five strikeouts and three walks. He also went 1 for 2 with a run and RBI.
Toledo, whose nickname is a nickname for “Bambino,” did his best Babe Ruth by hitting a home run in the fifth inning as part of a four-run rally that put Sunnyside ahead 14-1. Lizarraga went 1 for 3 with two runs.
Sunnyside's version of the Bambino, Jovanni Toledo, did his best impersonation of Babe Ruth with a home run in a 14-3 win over Nogales. His nickname is Bambi after Bambino. pic.twitter.com/V4PlM1iLCI
Toledo mentioned he “got into a big slump” last year in the regional tournament, “but I’m going to try to do my best this time.”
“It’s exciting, my second year already … I know it’s going to be hard,” he said. “We’ve got a good team. I know we can make it to Michigan.”
The Junior Little World Series is at Taylor, Mich., from Aug. 11-18.
Generally, it is not a good idea to look ahead like that, before playing one game in the regionals, but who can doubt these Sunnyside teams?
Celebratory water dump did not go as planned for Sunnyside with the dumper getting dumped on although on a hot day like today, that is not all that bad. pic.twitter.com/Iu0jnMMKGc
Pinedo said that in all of his nine years of playing Little League this is his best experience.
“I feel pretty good. I feel confident,” he said.
Long and rangy centerfielder Cesar Orozco, who projects to play basketball and baseball at Sunnyside, made some catches on the run and also performed at the plate going 2 for 3 with three runs and a stolen base.
Another standout was leadoff batter Miguel Traslavina, who went 2 for 4 with a run and two RBIs. He also went to the mound in the fifth after Nogales rallied two runs and struck out two batters and picked off a runner at second base for the last out of the game.
Asked about playing in the regionals, Traslavina said, “We better win.”
Paul Pinedo echoed that sentiment. With success comes expectations.
“Hopefully we don’t settle like we did last year (with the Majors in regionals),” the manager said. “We played like we were just happy to be there and we got beat. We lost to the world champions but it was still a nice experience.
“I keep telling these guys that I’ve been there before. I know what it’s like. Don’t settle. Have some fun and play the game.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.