Thornydale wins District 5 Majors championship, qualifies for state tournament

Thornydale Majors is going to state (Thornydale LL photo)

Thornydale Little League Majors All-Stars third baseman Ryann Pogue was so enveloped by the moment — sixth inning, game on the line for a shot at reaching the state tournament — that she was not aware she made the last out.

“I was so nervous, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m not going to get her out’ … but I did,” said an exuberant Pogue said. “I didn’t even know the game was over.”

She saw her coaches and teammates wildly celebrate after she tagged the baserunner on a rundown and realized it was indeed the last out of Thornydale’s 10-6 win over Marana to claim the District 5 Majors title.

Once she realized she made the last out, she said she thought to herself, “Oh my gosh, I was the one who did it.”

Thornydale, which beat Marana in the first two games of a best-of-three series, clinched a spot in the Arizona Little League Majors tournament in Verde Valley starting July 8 behind effective hitting and defense and timely hitting.

Kenzie Pritchett and Bella Kneeland combined for nine strikeouts while allowing only six walks. That low walk total stretched over six innings is indicative of how Pritchett and Kneeland prevented prolonged rallies.

After Marana rallied for three runs in the top of the first inning, Pritchett and Kneeland allowed only three runs the remainder of the game.

“We asked for that stability from her to get it going, and she threw well,” Thornydale manager Robert Calderon said of Pritchett starting in the circle.

Pritchett, Kneeland and Niyah Valenzuela answered Marana’s three runs in the top of the first by scoring in the bottom of the inning after walking and generating pressure on the basepaths with stolen bases.

That aggressive baserunning happened again in the third after Kneeland singled and Haley Allsup walked to lead off the inning. They eventually scored to put Thornydale ahead 5-4.

“I felt a little more pressure, definitely, because I wanted to win,” said Pritchett. “I felt different because these girls have my back.”

As is the case many times during the summer with Little League, players miss games because of family summer-vacation obligations. Pritchett will miss the state tournament because of a planned family gathering in Michigan.

Pritchett said she hopes to join the team if they win the state tournament and advance to the regionals.

“I really hope they do,” Pritchett said.

After Marana tied the game at 5 in the fourth inning, Thornydale again responded with a run on Kneeland’s RBI single, which scored Isabella Breitling, who had singled.

Thornydale added four insurance runs in the fifth, generating offense with aggressive baserunning again after Pogue, Katelyn Roberts and Breitling walked. Valenzuela also hit a single that helped generate runs.

Kneeland struck out two of the four batters she faced in the sixth inning, and Thornydale’s defense took over with Pogue tracking down the baserunner trying to head home off a hit.

“For a majority of them, it’s going to be their first time (in the state tournament at the Little League level), so it’s going to be very special,” Calderon said.

Thornydale graphic

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