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Rincon Little League of Vail is showing how baseball in southeast Tucson continues to thrive.
Rincon’s all-star teams now have two District 12 titles this summer with the possibility of earning another in the Majors division following its championship in the 9-10-11 division Monday night.
The 14-2 victory over Copper Hills at Field of Dreams occurred three days after Rincon’s 8-9-10 team won the district title Friday night in a 13-1 win over Cactus at Jesse Owens Park.
“It was just a matter of time before we put it all together,” Rincon’s 9-10-11 coach Justin Sipe said of the Rincon Little League organization. “We have he right group of kids. The coaching, everybody has the same philosophy of small ball, putting the ball in play, two-out hitting, shortening up and make contact … it shows.”
Champs: Rincon pic.twitter.com/n91KbdynHf
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) July 6, 2021
Sipe’s team advances to the state tournament at Litchfield Park with play starting July 16. Canyon View is the District 5 champion that will also play in that tournament. Sierra Vista and Nogales begin a best-of-three series at Nogales on Tuesday night for the District 8 championship.
A Rincon Little League alum is Nick Gonzales, a former Cienega standout who went on to be an All-American at New Mexico State before becoming a high first-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates last year.
The Jackson brothers — Andre and Isaiah — are also former Rincon Little League standouts who went on to star at Cienega High School. Andre, who played at Utah, is now a top Los Angeles Dodgers prospect excelling in Double-A. Isaiah, a senior centerfielder at Cienega next season, has made a commitment to play at ASU.
Four years ago, the Rincon 8-9-10 team won the state championship. Gonzales led Rincon to the West Regional semifinals in 2012, two games from reaching the Little League World Series at Williamsport, Pa.
The Majors team is 2-0 in its tournament, also at Field of Dreams, with an anticipated matchup Tuesday night at 6:30 with Sunnyside in the winner’s bracket semifinal. The winner advances to Friday’s championship.
Rincon has outscored its two opponents 26-0 in that tournament.
The 9-10-11 victory Monday night, culminating a 5-0 run in the tourney, included a mixture of extra-base hits and another solid pitching performance from starter Lucas Johnson, the son of former longtime Cienega basketball coach Matt Johnson.
Johnson allowed only three hits in four innings and kept it together through his team’s three errors. The three hits he allowed were to Copper Hills’ first three batters of the game. He had one strikeout and only one walk.
“This team is resilient,” Sipe said. “They’re unselfish. They’re just having fun.”
Rincon’s leadoff batter Elliott Norton, who went 3 for 4 with two runs, two doubles and two RBIs, echoed that statement concerning teamwork.
“I think it’s great winning the championship,” he said. “It’s fun playing with my teammates. We help each other and play well together.”
Norton’s twin brother Emery had a two-run single and also stole a base.
Other Rincon standouts were Sipe’s son Justus Sipe (RBI double), Gabe Chavira (two runs, a double and an RBI), Logan Holaway (two-run single), Johnson (RBI single), and Ty Welch (two-run double and two runs).
Copper Hills’ Alex Guzman, Andrew Clifton and Damian Rosales tallied hits, and Sebastian Castelo and Carter Hancock scored runs.
Little League Baseball Overview/Schedule
Note: * denotes elimination bracket game
Majors (Field of Dreams)
Monday, July 5
*Game Nine: Copper Hills 9, San Xavier 5
Copper Hills starting pitcher Nicholas Alegria struck out five batters in two innings and also had a double. Leadoff hitter Jacob Silva went 3 for 4 with two runs, a triple and RBI, Sebastian Gallardo went 2 for 4 with two runs, a double and three RBIs and Chase Mohrland was 2 for 2 with a run, triple and an RBI.
San Xavier was led by Hezekiah Watson (3 for 4 with three runs), Miguel Celaya (2 for 4 with a run, triple and RBI), and Samuel Alday (2 for 3 with a double and three RBIs.)
*Game Ten: Empire 7, Randolph 4
Empire starter Jason Cañez struck out five in two innings and also hit a bases-clearing double as part of his team’s four-run rally in the third inning. Jace Ridgeway also went 2 for 3 with two runs, Alek Leyva had an RBI double and Dylan Protz had an RBI single.
Empire rallied for three runs in the top of the sixth inning to take the 7-4 lead. Julius Salvador led off with a single and Ridgeway singled with two outs. Salvador eventually scored on a wild pitch and Ridgeway on an error. Cañez then reached on a walk and Leyva followed with his RBI double.
Randolph’s Armando Bejarano struck out eight batters in four innings and also had a three-run home run. Cruz Grijalva tallied six more strikeouts in the last two innings. Andrew Hendrick also had an RBI single as part of Empire’s four-run third inning.
Tuesday, July 6
Game Eleven: Sunnyside vs. Rincon, 6:30 p.m.
*Game Twelve: Copper Hills vs. Empire, 6:30 p.m..
Wednesday, July 7
*Game Thirteen: Winner Game Twelve vs. Loser Game Eleven, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, July 9
Game Fourteen: Championship (Winner Game Eleven vs. Winner Game Thirteen), 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 10
Game Fifteen: Championship (if necessary, if Winner Game Thirteen wins Game Fourteen), 6:30 p.m.
Monday, July 5
Championship — Rincon 14, Copper Hills 2
Rincon is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Litchfield Park on July 17.
Rincon is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Field of Dreams on July 17.
Copper Hills is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Nogales on July 16.
San Xavier is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Nogales starting July 23.
Canyon View is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Field of Dreams starting July 17.
Canyon View is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Litchfield Park starting July 16.
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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. 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.