Little League Softball

Moraga’s performance symbolic of her great grandfather’s pitching dominance

The legendary Joe Palomarez will turn 90 on Dec. 17, but on Friday night, he looked as vivacious as when he pitched for the Tucson Rattlers’ professional fast-pitch softball team during their glory years in the 1970’s at Santa Rita Park.

Palomarez watched with pride the overpowering performance of his great granddaughter Camyrn “CC” Moraga for Sunnyside’s Majors team at Mission Manor Park.

“I have caught for her and gone over some things,” he said, and with a smile, added, “I want to show her how to throw my knuckleball.”

He smiled as he moved his hand forward resembling how a knuckleball moves all over the place.

Sunnyside’s Camryn Moraga steps from the circle after another 1-2-3 inning (Javier Morales/

RELATED: Joe Palomarez is the patriarch of one of Southern Arizona’s greatest sports families

Moraga, a lefty, mixed her fastball and changeup to perfection, literally, hurling a perfect game with nine strikeouts in Sunnyside’s 12-0 four-inning win over Copper Hills in the opening round game of the District 12 Majors (12U) softball tournament at Mission Manor.

Sunnyside faces San Xavier on Saturday at 5:15 p.m. at Mission Manor for a place in the championship game Tuesday.

Moraga, who started pitching last year after playing in the outfield, did not allow the ball to leave the infield against Copper Hills.

Sunnyside second baseman Yzenia Escarcega made a quick reaction to a hard-hit grounder hit to her right side, scooped up the ball and threw the runner out in the nick of time to preserve the perfect game in the fourth.

Camryn Moraga shares a laugh with shortstop Camila Vargas (Javier Morales/

Moraga said her “Tata,” as she calls Palomarez, got her turned on to pitching during those catching sessions with him.

She has also worked on her pitching with her dad Omar Moraga’s Tucson Roadrunners youth club team and with individual training sessions. Omar is a former baseball standout at Sunnyside and Arizona who went on to pro ball.

Pitching runs on his side of the family as well. CC’s grandfather Raul and grandmother Sara were also pitchers. Sara was a standout at Santa Rita.

CC’s mom Selina Encinas was an all-city softball player as a shortstop at Sunnyside who went on to play at Pima College.

Joe Palomarez throws out the first pitch at the 2015 Southern Arizona All-Star games to his son Ernie (Andy Morales/

CC’s brother Adam Moraga excelled on the mound at Sunnyside and Pima and is now with the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, an NAIA school at Chickasha, Okla. He is nursing his right arm from Tommy John surgery recently and is expected to return to the mound late next season.

Being on the diamond is in CC’s genes. Now that she is two years from high school, she has lofty ambitions.

“I hope I make it to a big college, D1, something big,” she said.

Sunnyside coach Andres Lopez has watched CC’s progression as her coach in recent years with first baseman Aviana Lopez his daughter.

“She has that natural spin as a lefty and she comes in hard with no effort at all,” the elder Lopez said. “She throws really hard.”

CC immediately got all the offense she needed from Sunnyside’s lineup in the first inning against Copper Hills. The team sent 12 batters to the plate and emerged with a 7-0 lead.

Camila Vargas‘ two-run triple, her first of two triples in the game, was part of the first-inning rally. Alexa Cirerol, Escarcega and Carissa Palomarez also each hit RBI singles.

“Really exciting, lots of confidence,” Vargas said when asked what it’s like to be part of her team. “Most of all we have a lot of confidence and we encourage each other.”

Vargas and her coach said reaching the Little League World Series is a realistic goal. The 2013 Sunnyside majors went that far with the same type of familiarity with the players together for almost five years.

Sunnyside is a win away from reaching the championship game of the District 12 Majors championship game (Javier Morales/

“They’re a great group of girls, easy to coach and they’re awesome,” Lopez said of his team. “They’re naturally talented.”

Sunnyside rallied for three more runs in the top of the fourth to take a 12-0 lead behind an RBI double by Anyssa Pacho, another triple by Vargas and an RBI single by Hailey Mariscal.

Pacho is a cousin of Izzy Pacho, the former Ironwood Ridge star who is now with Arizona’s softball program. Their grandfathers are brothers.

Sunnyside first baseman Aviana Lopez, a classmate of Camryn Moraga, had the three putouts of grounders hit by Copper Hills batters (Javier Morales/

District 12 11U softball

Sunnyside’s 11U softball team remains loose in the dugout (Javier Morales/

Sunnyside’s 11U softball team prevailed in the first game of a best-of-three series against Southwestern with a 39-5 win on Friday at Mission Manor.

The team coached by Antoinette Bustamante will go for the district title on Saturday night at 7:45 p.m. at Mission Manor.

Some of Bustamante’s top performers included Aracely Soto with four hits, including an inside-the-park home run, five runs and four RBIs; Angelica Meza with two hits, an RBI and five runs; Emiliana Lopez with three hits, five runs and two RBIs; Eliana Ramirez with three hits, four runs and an RBI; Rubyann Luevanos with four runs and two RBIs; and Viviana Castano with two hits, including a double, with four runs and two RBIs.

Sunnyside’s Aracely Soto had an inside-the-park home run (Javier Morales/

“We need more competition; we definitely got a lot of our batting practice today,” Bustamante said. “We’re ready for competition. We’re ready for the next step.”

A win on Saturday night over Southwestern will give Sunnyside the district title and a spot in the state tournament at Payson starting July 15.

“We’re ready; we’ve been ready since the season started,” said Bustamante, who indicated her team should not have a letdown Saturday after the big win Friday. “I’m their coach. They know. I don’t take goofing around. We’ll be ready.”

Some of Southwestern’s standouts included Arianette Contreras with two RBIs and a single, Rikki Romero with an RBI and Scarlett Kihara with two runs.

More photos from the 11U game:

Sunnyside pitcher Angelica Meza goes through her windup (Javier Morales/
Southwestern’s Neveah Marti takes a swing (Javier Morales/
Sunnyside’s Viviana Castano standing at third alongside Southwestern’s Krystal Navarro (Javier Morales/


District 12

11U (Mission Manor)

Friday, June 25

Game One (Best of 3): Sunnyside 39, Southwestern 5

Saturday, June 26

Game Two (Best of 3): Southwestern vs. Sunnyside, 7:45 p.m.

Monday, June 28

Game Three (if necessary): Southwestern vs. Sunnyside, 5:15 p.m.

Majors (Mission Manor)

Friday, June 25

Game One: Sunnyside 12, Copper Hills 0

Saturday, June 26

Game Two: Sunnyside vs. San Xavier, 5:15 p.m.

Monday, June 28

Game Three: Copper Hills vs. Loser Game Two, 7:45 p.m.

Tuesday, June 29

Game Four: Championship (Winner Game Two vs. Winner Game Three), 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, June 30

Game Five: Championship (if necessary, if Game Three winner wins Game Four), 6:30 p.m.

District 5

10U (Flowing Wells Park)

Thursday, June 24

Game One (Best of 3): Continental Ranch 15, Thornydale 14

Friday, June 25

Game Two (Best of 3): Continental Ranch 11, Thornydale 10 (Continental Ranch wins series 2-0 and advances to the state tournament at Cottonwood beginning July 9).

Majors (Flowing Wells Park)

Monday, June 28

Game One (Best of 3): Thornydale vs. Marana, 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, June 29

Game Two: Thornydale vs. Marana, 6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, June 30

Game Three (if necessary): Thornydale vs. Marana, 6:30 p.m.

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! 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, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, 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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District

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