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The 2023 summer Little League All-Star competition locally started Thursday with Sunnyside defeating Cactus 16-0 in four innings in Game 1 of the District 12 50/70 best-of-three series at Vista del Prado Park.
The teams play Game 2 on Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Vista del Prado. If Sunnyside wins, it advances to the state tournament in Nogales starting July 10. If Cactus wins, a deciding Game 3 will be played Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at the same park.
Sunnyside right-hander Christian Moran allowed only one hit with eight strikeouts and one walk in the game stopped after four innings by mercy rule.
Moran did not allow a baserunner past first base and prevented Cactus’ last 10 batters from recording a hit from the first to fourth innings.
“I felt really good today,” said Moran, who attends Challenger Middle School. “I felt if I didn’t get strikeouts, my defense would have helped me out.”
Sunnyside’s Christian Moran strikes out side to close 16-0 win over Cactus in 4 innings of opening round of the District 12 Little League 50/70 best-of-3 series. Game 2 Friday at 6:30 pm at Vista Del Prado. Sunnyside win away from state tournament starting July 10 in Nogales. pic.twitter.com/o0DKVg2y2Q
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) June 16, 2023
Sunnyside manager David Gandarela Sr. could see that type of performance coming from Moran, who was part of Challenger’s team that won the Sunnyside School District Middle School Championship early last month.
“He did what he usually does, even better,” Gandarela said. “He was on point. I was very pleased with how he did.”
Moran, the No. 3 batter in Sunnyside’s lineup, also had a hit, two runs, two stolen bases and an RBI as part of his team’s attack that included nine hits and eight walks.
Sunnyside also took advantage of Cactus’ six errors and five wild pitches. Nine of Sunnyside’s 16 runs were unearned.
“We all felt confident hitting; we practice a lot,” Moran said.
Moran and eight other players were part of Sunnyside’s Majors team last year that reached the state playoffs.
“We already know each other, so we have a lot of chemistry together,” Moran said.
Gandarela’s son David Jr. is one of the members who played for the Majors team last summer. He scored twice after reaching base on a walk and an error.
Leadoff batter Jaylee Abraham, one of the returning standouts, went 2-for-2 with a walk, three runs, two stolen bases and a triple.
Gandarela Sr. said of the nine players sticking together to play for the 50/70 team:
“All it does is it just puts us in a comfortable position because they are pretty familiar with each other. They’ve played and practiced together for quite some time. I think everybody feels really comfortable. It makes things a lot smoother.”
A new Little League rule requires every player, including bench players, to have plate appearances as part of the lineup. This alleviates concerns of some players not having an opportunity to have an at-bat.
The only position changes that need to be reported by coaches to the umpires are the pitcher and catcher positions.
Sunnyside had 11 players bat in its lineup and Cactus 12.
“It has its ups and downs,” Gandarela Sr. said of the new lineup rule. “Baseball has nine players in the lineup, but I like the fact that kids are always doing something. It’s also easy to make substitutions — get them in and out.”
Cactus’ Luis Morales, who played shortstop and catcher, recorded his team’s lone hit.
Other Sunnyside standouts at the plate included Eli Urias (1 for 3 with two runs, two stolen bases, two RBIs), Nomar Guadarrama (2 for 2 with two runs, two stolen bases and two RBIs), Jake Ogas (two walks, two runs, RBI double), Diego Burruel (RBI single) and Isaiah Gallardo (double and a run).
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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.