Tucson wins American Legion state championship, start West Regionals Aug. 2

American Legion baseball during the summer in Tucson had significance when Mark Morris played at Cholla High School in the early 1990s, before club baseball diminished it over the last decade or so.

His team of Tucson High players representing Post 7 this summer is bringing back some of those good memories, punctuated by an American Legion state championship victory Thursday night over Sunnyside (Post 73) by a score of 20-4 in five innings in the deciding game of the best-of-three series at the Kino Annex Fields.

“Tucson High has a responsibility to the city and to (American Legion) Post 7 to play in this,” said Morris, who has coached the Badgers since replacing legendary Oscar Romero before the 2019 season. “My first couple years that I was here it was hard to get guys. Everyone wanted to play club and they didn’t want to show up.

“One year, we lost in the championship up in Phoenix because we had five guys not show up because they chose to play at club ball. … Last year, everybody bought in, and you can tell the difference. It’s fun to see as a coach and a mentor to see guys believe in what you’re doing.”

The “responsibility” that Morris mentioned is in regards to the late Chris Moon, the former Tucson High standout who went on to be part of the Arizona baseball team before deciding to join the Army and serve during the War on Terror in Afghanistan. As a sniper there, he was killed during an ambush two years after he joined the Army in 2010.

Moon threw a complete game one-hitter with 10 strikeouts for Post 7 over in a 6-1 win over Bryant, Ark., in the American Legion World Series in 2007 at Bartlesville, Okla. The team lost in the semifinals after being the first team from Tucson to advance to the World Series since 1969.

No team from Tucson has gone that far since.

“Obviously, with Chris Moon and the other stuff that’s happened at Tucson High (historically one of the most prominent secondary education institutions in the state), it’s our responsibility to play in this and represent they city,” Morris said. “We are the biggest school and we do represent the city. There are so many alums who have played Post 7 so for them to be happy and proud of what we’re doing is great.”

Tucson will play in the American League West Regionals at Fairfield, Calif., starting Aug. 2. The World Series is at Shelby, N.C. from Aug. 10-15.

Tucson starting pitcher Victor “Guero” Hernandez, entering his senior season, put his team in position to win the championship Thursday night after pitching a complete game in Wednesday’s 5-2 victory. The performance was crucial after Sunnyside took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series on Tuesday.

Tucson took control of Thursday’s game batting through the lineup in each of the first and second innings to build a 10-1 lead.

After Sunnyside cut the lead to 12-4 with three runs in the top of the fourth, Tucson pulled away with eight runs in the fourth while sending 11 batters to the plate.

The highlight of that fourth-inning rally — and the game, maybe the summer — was Tucson’s Aldo Emanuel Tellon, Maddox Jones and Jaden Leon hitting consecutive triples. The hits by Tellon and Jones found the gap in left-center field and Leon’s blast went to the wall in right-centerfield.

According to Baseball-Reference.com, that feat has happened in the major leagues only once twice in the last 42 years — in 2011 by the Toronto Blue Jays and 1981 by the Montreal Expos.

“I was thinking when I saw it, I was like, ‘I don’t think I’ve seen that before,'” Morris said. “What was great is all of those were on a two-strike pitch. Maddox fell behind 0-2 and then he laces one. Jaden sees the curveball and then sits back and drives it in the gap the other way.

“It’s good recognition, so it means they’re putting in the work, which for me as a coach it’s great to see them have success. It means we can keep working because it’s working.”

Tucson’s Aldo Emanuel Tellon reacts to hitting a triple in the fourth inning of Thursday’s 20-4 win over Sunnyside. His teammates Maddox Jones and Jaden Leon followed his triples with triples of their own. (Stephanie van Latum/AllSportsTucson.com)

Boxscore (from iScore):

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