Little League Baseball

Lorta, Espinoza lead Sunnyside to victory in District 12 Majors tournament

Sunnyside during pregame introductions having some fun (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Things could have got unsettling for Sunnyside on Saturday but coach Gabriel Garcia’s group gathered itself behind steady and sure players Ezequiel Lorta and Josue Espinoza.

Empire’s tall, dominant pitcher Alek Leyva was striking out at least two batters an inning and Sunnyside trailed immediately in the first inning after Jason Cañez of Empire blasted a home run to deep centerfield.

“Me and Gabe, coach Gabe Salgado, we were like, hey, we need to start putting some bunts down and get the confidence inside the dugout and the kids didn’t falter,” Garcia said. “After that, some hits started coming around.”

Sunnyside broke through for a 2-1 win to advance to the winner’s bracket semifinal round of the District 12 Little League Majors division.

It will face Rincon, which is also 2-0 in the tournament at Field of Dreams after a 14-0 win over San Xavier on Saturday. Sunnyside and Rincon will play on Tuesday at 5:15 p.m. for a spot in the championship, scheduled for Friday.

In two elimination-bracket games Monday, San Xavier will play Copper Hills at 5:15 p.m. followed by Empire playing Randolph at 7:45. See the tournament breakdown below.

Lorta settled down after giving up the two-out home run to Cañez by not allowing any of the next 14 batters he faced to advance beyond first base.

He finished with six strikeouts and two walks in four innings to get the win. He allowed only two singles after the home run.

“I was kind of rushing myself when I was pitching; I was trying to take my time and try to not make too much mistakes,” Lorta said of his performance after the first inning.

Lorta has a solid support system with his family. His older brother Damian Cristobal was a slugger for the 2019 Sunnyside Majors team that came a game away from reaching the Little League World Series at Williamsport, Pa. They advanced to the West Regional final representing Arizona at San Bernardino, Calif.

Damian Cristobal and Ezequiel Lorta (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)
Ezequiel Lorta got the win against Empire pitching four solid innings (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)
Damian Cristobal Lorta on ESPN when Sunnyside’s 2019 Majors team reached the West Regional final (ESPN screen shot)

Ezequiel is now in that age group competing for the same Williamsport aspirations.

“He’s teaching me sometimes with good stuff that I need,” Ezequiel said of Damian.

Ezequiel received all the help he needed from Espinoza, who led off the second and fourth innings with a double and later scored for Sunnyside’s two runs in the game.

After his second-inning double, he moved to third on a passed ball that allowed a teammate to reach base on a strikeout. Espinoza then scored on a perfect bunt laid down by Iram Urias. Espinoza ran home to tie the game at 1 when a play was made trying to get the runner at first out at second base.

“The pitcher (Leyva) was really good, we faced him two years ago when we lost the championship to him,” Garcia said. “He’s a great kid. I used to coach him. What I wanted to do was a little bit of a small ball to move the kids around.”

Empire’s fans displayed a running strikeout total for Alex Leyva (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Leyva finished with 11 strikeouts and no walks in five innings. He allowed only four hits, including the second double by Espinoza in the fourth inning that was followed by an RBI triple by Jacinto Preciado with one out to put Sunnyside ahead 2-1.

“I think I did really good and my friends who support me here, they’re really good, too,” Espinoza said. “It feels good (to play with Sunnyside). We’re a winning team and we don’t give up no matter what.”

Espinoza also dominated on the mound after relieving Ezequiel with no outs in the fifth with a runner on first following a walk.

Josue Espinoza struck out five of the six batters he faced in the fifth and sixth innings (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

He did not allow a hit, struck out five and walked one in the last two innings to record the save.

“With Josue, Espy we call him, I will always save him at the end, one or two innings at the end,” Garcia said. “He always comes through. His nerves, he does not have any. He’s great. He goes in there and I ask him, ‘Are you nervous?’ He’s like, ‘Nah coach. I’ve done this before. I know what to do. I’m good.’ He’s never nervous.”

Sunnyside reacts to a mini fireworks display after its win Saturday (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

DISTRICT 5 and 12 Schedule and Overview

Note: * denotes elimination bracket game

Little League Softball

District 12

9-10-11

Sunnyside is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Payson on July 15.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Sunnyside10U2-1024x768.jpg
Sunnyside 9-10-11 District 12 champions (Sunnyside LL photo)

Majors

Sunnyside is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Queen Creek on July 6.

Sunnyside Majors District 12 champions (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Seniors

Sunnyside is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Arthur Pack on July 6.

Sunnyside Seniors District 12 champions (Sunnyside LL photo)

District 5

8-9-10

Continental Ranch is the district champion advancing to the state tournament at Cottonwood beginning July 9.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is ContinentalRanch-1024x768.jpg
Continental Ranch 8-9-10 District 5 champions (Continental Ranch photo)

Majors

Marana is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Queen Creek on July 6.

Marana Majors District 5 champions (Marana photo)

Juniors

Thornydale is the district champion heading to the state tournament that will be held at Arthur Pack starting July 5.

Thornydale Juniors District 5 champions (Marana photo)

Little League Baseball

District 12

Intermediate 50/70

Copper Hills is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Nogales on July 16.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is CopperHills2.jpg
Copper Hills District 12 Intermediate 50/70 champions (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

8-9-10

Rincon is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Field of Dreams on July 17.

Rincon District 12 8-9-10 champions (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

9-10-11 (Field of Dreams)

Saturday, July 3

*Game Nine: Copper Hills 4, Sunnyside 0

Copper Hills rallied for three runs in the top of the first and held on for the win. Jesus Castillo had two doubles and was the winning pitcher for Copper Hills. He pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings allowing only four hits with 10 strikeouts and two walks.

Copper Hills advances to play Rincon in the championship Monday (Copper Hills photo)

Monday, July 5

Game Ten: Championship — Rincon vs. Copper Hills, 6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, July 6

Game Eleven: Championship (if necessary, if Copper Hills wins Game Ten), 6:30 p.m. 

Majors (Field of Dreams)

Saturday, July 3

Game Seven: Sunnyside 2, Empire 1

Game Eight: Rincon 14, San Xavier 0

Cole Lohrenz and Chael Hawkins combined on the shutout. Lohrenz had six strikeouts and no walks and allowed two hits in three innings and Hawkins struck out three of the four batters he faced in the fourth inning. Lohrenz also had an RBI triple. In Rincon’s two wins in the tournament, it has outscored opponents 26-0.

Rincon Majors roster (Rincon graphic)

Monday, July 5

*Game Nine: Copper Hills vs. San Xavier, 5:15 p.m.

*Game Ten: Randolph vs. Empire, 7:45 p.m.

Tuesday, July 6

Game Eleven: Sunnyside vs. Rincon, 5:15 p.m.

*Game Twelve: Winner Game Nine vs. Winner Game Ten, 7:45 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.

Juniors

San Xavier is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Nogales starting July 23.

San Xavier District 12 Juniors champions (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

District 5

8-9-10

Canyon View is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Field of Dreams starting July 17.

Canyon View District 5 8-10 champions (Canyon View photo)

9-10-11

Canyon View is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Litchfield Park starting July 16.

Canyon View District 5 9-11 champions (Canyon View photo)

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.COM LATEST POSTS

Majors

Oro Valley is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Tempe starting July 16.

Oro Valley District 5 Majors champions (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Intermediate 50/70

Continental Ranch is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Nogales starting July 16.

Continental Ranch District 5 Intermediate 50/70 champions (Continental Ranch photo)

Juniors

Western is the district champion heading to the state tournament at Nogales starting July 23.

Western District 5 Juniors champions (Western photo)

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! 

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.

Comments
To Top