Little League Baseball

Rincon outlasts Sunnyside to advance to District 12 Majors championship

Rincon’s postgame meeting with the final score in its favor on the scoreboard (Javier Morales/

The Rincon Little League all-star baseball team was in a situation Tuesday, in its 5-4 win over Sunnyside, it had not experienced yet in its first two games of the District 12 Majors tournament at Field of Dreams.

Sergio Moreno’s team defeated its first two opponents by a combined score of 26-0 entering the winner’s bracket semifinal.

Sunnyside scored three batters into the game and mounted a 3-1 lead going into the fourth inning.

“That’s a tough team we played,” Moreno said. “Very polished team. Great coaches. I know a lot of those kids. I knew a lot about those kids coming into the game. They were going to be a good test for us and us for them.

“We went down 3-1, put us in a little bit of hole. We’ve got a great group of kids. I’m extremely proud of them coming back.”

Rincon coach Sergio Moreno meets with his team on the mound (Javier Morales/

The game pitted two of the most successful Little League organizations at the Majors level (11 and 12 year olds) in the state over the last decade.

Rincon advanced to the semifinals of the 2012 West Regional with Nick Gonzales (now in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization), and Sunnyside came a game away from the Little League World Series at Williamsport, Pa., in 2019, losing in the West Regional championship.

Rincon has secured a spot in the District 12 championship Friday at 6:30 p.m. against the winner of the Sunnyside-Empire elimination-bracket final that will be played Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Field of Dreams.

Empire, a combination of the former Pantano and Santa Rita organizations, defeated Copper Hills 16-10 on Tuesday night in an elimination bracket semifinal.

Either Sunnyside or Empire faces the difficult task coming out of the elimination bracket of having to defeat Rincon twice to win the title, but with how closely matched all three teams are, anything is possible.

“We’re excited; they’ve worked hard to get here,” Moreno said of being in the championship. “I’m proud of each and everyone of them. Good things are set for all of these boys. Win or lose on that game, we still have to lose twice.

“Three good teams left … They’re going to battle for this. It’s going to be a good game Friday regardless of who it is.”

Rincon scored immediately in the first inning against Sunnyside after Israel Hernandez singled and moved to third on a throwing error. One out later, he scored on Davila’s slow-rolling ground out to third base.

Sunnyside’s Ezequiel Lorta finished 3 for 4 with two runs and a solo home run (Javier Morales/

But Sunnyside struck right back, serving notice that the game would not be another Rincon blowout in the tournament.

Ezequiel Lorta, whose brother Damian Cristobal was on that Sunnyside team that Tucson rallied behind two years ago, led off the bottom of the first with a single and scored with one out on a single by Diego Garcia.

Garcia, Sunnyside’s starting pitcher, and Rincon’s Chase Briggs then engaged in a pitcher’s duel until Sunnyside scored twice in the third to take a 3-1 lead.

After Garcia and Josue Espinoza walked with one out in the third inning, Garcia later scored on a wild pitch. Pinch-hitter Santos Lopez then hit a double scoring Espinoza.

Rincon third baseman Carlos Davila hit a home run in the sixth inning to tie the game with Sunnyside (Javier Morales/

Briggs settled down retiring four of the next five batters he faced. He struck out six and walked two in his four innings.

Rincon rallied with two outs in the fourth to cut the lead to 3-2. Alan Arenas reached on a throwing error, advancing to second base, and John Nyman followed with an RBI single.

“We came back because of good pitching and the hits are good, pitching was better and the hits were better … it was like a domino effect,” said Cole Lohrenz, who entered the game as a pinch-hitter and reliever in the fifth and proved to be a sparkplug for Rincon.

Garcia pitched well for Sunnyside to when he was relieved in the fifth. He allowed three hits and two unearned runs with four strikeouts and no walks in his four innings.

Rincon, which stranded a runner on third base in the fifth, came to the plate in the top of the sixth still behind 3-2 after Sunnyside left two runners in scoring position in its half of the fifth.

Davila led off the sixth with an opposite-field solo home run to tie the game at 3.

“The whole time, I was planning on sticking to my approach because when I leave my approach everything goes wrong, everything goes out the door,” Davila said. “So I was really focused on sticking to my approach, staying inside the ball and hitting the ball to right field. I saw the outside pitch coming and I hit it to right field.

“I wasn’t thinking about hitting a home run. I was thinking, stay inside the ball, because I know if I do everything right, the ball’s going to go far.”

Two outs later, Nyman kept the inning going with a single. After a pitching change, Jase Moreno hit a double scoring Nyman to give Rincon the lead. Lohrenz followed with a single, plating Moreno, to put Rincon ahead 5-3.

Lorta gave Sunnyside hope with a solo home run with two outs in the sixth but Lohrenz struck out the last batter to end the game.

“We really earned it,” Lohrenz said of reaching the championship game. “We’ve been working our butts off to get here. We’ve all been working together as a team and just been trying our absolute best out of this.”

Sunnyside must go through the elimination bracket to the championship (Javier Morales/

Empire 16, Copper Hills 10

Empire stayed alive behind the power hitting of Alek Leyva against Copper Hills in the District 12 Majors elimination-bracket semifinal.

Leyva’s grand slam was part of a six-run third inning for Empire that also included a two-run home by Julius Salvador.

Other standouts for Empire included Miguel Tenori (three runs and triple) and Jace Ridgeway (bases-clearing double).

Copper Hills was led by Jacob Silva (three hits and a run), Alek Jimenez (two hits) and Seabas Gallardo (three hits, including two doubles, and a run) and Nicholas Alegria (two doubles).



*-Elimination bracket game

Tuesday, July 6

Game Eleven: Rincon 5, Sunnyside 4

*Game Twelve: Empire 16, Copper Hills 10

Wednesday, July 7

*Game Thirteen: Empire vs. Sunnyside, 6:30 p.m.

Friday, July 9

Game Fourteen: Championship (Rincon 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.

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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