Little League Softball

Sunnyside forces deciding game for Arizona Little League State Majors championship

Sunnyside’s players run to left fielder Alexa Cirerol after she catches the last out of the game against Cactus Foothills (Javier Morales/

QUEEN CREEK — Sunnyside coaches and players carried the high-spirited attitude of “let’s play two” of Ernie Banks into Wednesday’s game against unbeaten Cave Creek Cactus Foothills, and because of that, they are in position for a state championship Thursday.

“We have to win one game any way, so let’s do it and get to the next one,” Sunnyside manager Henry Pacho said before the game in which his team stayed alive with a 3-1 victory behind the pitching of his daughter Anyssa.

Sunnyside showed up here at Queen Creek’s Desert Mountain Park on Wednesday thinking one win against Cactus Foothills would suffice for the Arizona Little League State Majors championship.

Tournament organizers at first declared the tournament to be a modified double-elimination format, meaning once the championship game was reached, no “if” game would be played if the elimination-bracket winner beat the unbeaten team.

That changed when Cactus Foothills representatives phoned the West Region Little League office to complain about it being unfair if it lost to Sunnyside, which it beat 10-6 Friday in the winner’s bracket final.

The victory Wednesday for Sunnyside brought Cactus Foothills’ concerns to reality. Sunnyside forced a deciding game Thursday at 6:30 p.m. for the state championship and the right to advance to the West Regionals and represent Arizona at San Bernardino, Calif., starting next Saturday.

“I told the girls before we started, ‘Let’s have fun. Don’t play tense. Let’s have fun. Let’s come out and play softball with the enjoyment of it. … Whatever happens, happens. Let’s go out there and have fun and give them a game,'” Henry Pacho said.

Cactus Foothills did not allow a run in three games in the tournament before playing Sunnyside on Friday. When Cactus Foothills took a 7-0 lead after two innings against Sunnyside in that game, it had outscored its opponents 43-0 to that point.

Sunnyside responded with six runs in the next two innings and eventually lost 10-6.

The 3-1 win Wednesday means Sunnyside has outscored Cactus Foothills 9-4 over the last 10 innings.

“I was really nervous because they are really good hitters,” said Anyssa, who took the loss in the previous game but limited Cactus Foothills to one run on seven hits in six innings Wednesday. “I worked up in the box.”

Her resilience, or “confidence” as she puts it, was exemplified by working out of jams consistently. Cactus Foothills left eight runners on base, seven in scoring position. She had seven strikeouts with three walks.

“She did really good; she’s a really good pitcher,” catcher Yzenia Escarcega said of Anyssa, who is a cousin of Ironwood Ridge graduate and Arizona softball player Izzy Pacho. “She hit her spots but sometimes I like to talk to the pitchers (and say), ‘Don’t get down on yourself too much.’ … I don’t like it when my pitchers get stressed too much. I like to calm them down, thinking it’s not too bad. Just hit your spots and you’re fine.”

Although she is one of the more diminutive players on the team, Escarcega’s nickname is “Trouble” for how she plays big and determined. Late in the game, she dove for a foul ball near the screen but came up just short of the ball. That effort was appreciated by all of the fans at the park as she got a loud ovation.

The dive seemed to give Sunnyside a jolt as it withstood a fifth-inning rally by Cactus Foothills to maintain its lead.

“I really like to dive for balls a lot, so when I see a pop fly and I can catch it, I sometimes, when I’m not close, try to dive for it,” she said.

Anyssa and Cactus Foothills’ Lilly Hamel engaged in a pitcher’s duel throughout with Sunnyside getting on the board first in the third inning.

Anyssa Pacho struck out seven batters in a complete-game performance (Javier Morales/

With one out, Carissa Palomarez walked and then stole second base. After Hamel recorded one of her 10 strikeouts for the second out, Pacho singled to score Palomarez. Pacho later scored on a wild pitch after moving to third following Camila Vargas getting hit by a pitch and Camryn Moraga walking.

“I’m proud of my team and proud of myself to be honest,” said Pacho, who is the clean-up hitter in the lineup.

Sunnyside built its lead to 3-0 in the fifth after Aviana Lopez walked, reached second on a wild pitch and scored on Moraga’s opposite-field single to left field.

Sunnyside gathers after its victory (Javier Morales/

Cactus Foothills, nicknamed Highlighter Nation because of its fluorescent yellow shirts, scored its run in the bottom of the fifth inning after Lexi Honea started the rally by walking with one out. With two outs, Elsie Pottinger singled and Kendall Gillham followed with another single that scored Honea. Pottinger advanced to third and Gillham to second on an error.

Pacho struck out the last batter to quell the rally. She retired the side in the sixth to close out the victory.

“I think they’ll come with a higher confidence after they saw how they challenged these girls,” Henry Pacho said of his team entering Thursday’s championship. “These girls (of Cactus Foothills) were surprised. They didn’t expect it either. We’re hoping it’s the same game (Thursday).”

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

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
To Top