Sun Belt College League

Vail Rebels defend SBCL championship with series win over Speedway Gamblers

The Vail Rebels went unbeaten in their last nine games, including a two-game sweep of the Speedway Gamblers in the Sun Belt College League championship series (Javier Morales/

Chach Jackson, mother of touted baseball prospect Isaiah Jackson, directed her son and his Vail Rebels teammates for one more photograph opportunity on this night of celebration.

“Those of you who played together on the Diamondbacks (youth club team) stay there and we’ll have a this-is-now and that-was-then photo,” she told them.

Twelve of the Rebels and two of the Speedway Gamblers — including Kansas City Royals draftee Milo Rushford — gathered for the photo along with their coach starting 10 to 12 years ago — Josue Ortiz — and assistant Ron Figueroa.

Josue Ortiz with assistant Ron Figueroa with some of their players dating 10 to 12 years ago they have coached when they were with the Diamondbacks club team (Javier Morales/

Longevity, familiarilty, family atmosphere, a strong bond — all essential elements for the Rebels, who won their second consecutive Sun Belt College League championship with a 7-3 win Wednesday over the Gamblers, sweeping the best-of-three series.

“It’s a pleasure, first,” Ortiz said when asked about being the coach of many of these players annually. “A wise man told me what we try to do is build a eulogy. This is what I’ve done, just trying to coach the kids knowing it’s not just baseball but something similar to life.

“You’re going to fail quite a bit. What you can do is lace them back up and give them your best the next day. It’s been an honor on my part to coach these guys. A lott of great ballplayers, couple of them got drafted (Jackson and Rushford) and a few of them are going on to play great baseball.”

Rushford, a Walden Grove graduate who signed with New Mexico State, did not play for the Gamblers in the series in order to avoid injury before signing with the Royals on Friday.

He was selected in the 18th round Tuesday — the same round the Houston Astros picked Jackson, a Cienega standout who has signed with ASU.

Jackson said he will continue to weigh his decision — sign with Houston or attend ASU — with support from his family.

“I’m just going to go back-and-forth, pros and cons of both, talk to my family who I trust and make the decision,” said Jackson, whose brother Andre, also a Cienega grad, is a pitching prospect with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Isaiah, a 6-foot-3 and 200-pound prospect who covers plenty of ground in center field with his fast, long-legged stride, continued to show his ability at the plate in Wednesday’s victory going 3-for-3 with two runs and an RBI triple.

The triple capped a three-run rally in the second inning for the Rebels, giving them a 3-2 lead after the Gamblers rallied for two runs in the first inning for the second time in the series.

Devin Alvarez, a Sahuarita graduate headed for Eastern Arizona College, had a two-run single in the first inning for the upstart Gamblers.

The Speedway Gamblers made a dramatic run during the postseason after finishing sixth out of six teams during the Sun Belt College League regular season (Javier Morales/

Erik Sabel’s team finished last out of six teams in the regular season but won the play-in game over No. 3 Old Tucson Gauchos and then swept No. 2 Catalina Aztecs in the best-of-three semifinals to reach the championship series.

The Rebels, who did not lose in their last nine games (7-0-2 in that span), pulled away from the Gamblers behind the pitching of starter Marcus Delgado (CDO/El Paso CC) and four-run sixth inning that included an RBI single by Aiden Ortiz (Cienega/Luna (N.M.) CC) and run-scoring triple by Dylan Bradford (Sabino/Cochise CC).

Delgado, part of the state-champion CDO team this spring, got the win pitching six innings. He faced his former Dorado teammates Austin Madsen (Pima CC) and Dominic Felix (New Mexico), who are with the Gamblers.

Madsen had three of the eight hits allowed by Delgado, who struck out seven and walked four. He retired 12 out of 13 batters in one stretch, including a high-light reel diving grab by third baseman Angel Ochoa (CDO/Pima/Southeast Oklahoma State) off a scorching line drive by Alvarez in the third inning.

Ochoa, one of the members of Josue Ortiz’s Diamondbacks youth team back in the day, was selected the MVP of the Sun Belt College League for leading his team to the title.

“I felt good. I felt like myself again. I felt like a kid out there,” said Ochoa, who is hoping to land with another college soon with two years of eligibility remaining. “I’m very happy to play this game everyday.”

Former CDO and Pima standout Angel Ochoa earned the MVP award of the Sun Belt College League (Javier Morales/

Rushford’s teammate at Walden Grove, sidearmed Gamblers right-hander Alex Urias-Calvillo (South Mountain CC) was another member of the Diamondbacks’ youth organization with Josue Ortiz. He faced the minimum of 10 batters after entering with two outs in the sixth, recording four strikeouts, including all three batters he faced in the ninth.

Two other former Diamondbacks who were with the Rebels — Bradford and Jacob Wiltshire (Sabino/Cochise CC) — each went 2 for 4.

Tucson High graduate Ruben Villaescusa went 2 for 2 with an RBI and Julian Encinas (Amphi/North Central University in Minneapolis) drove in two runs for the Rebels.

Leonel Villa (Walden Grove) and Erubiel Ozuna (Casa Grande/Central Lakes College) each went 2 for 4 for the Gamblers.

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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