When the East Mountain Little League Minors All-Stars scored a run in the sixth inning of the June 25 District 5 tournament elimination game, victory was within reach.
After trailing Altamont Little League by six runs at one point in the win-or-go-home elimination game, East Mountain’s Evan Ortiz slid safely into home to tie the score.
The N.M. District 5 Little League Minors All-Stars (8–10-year-olds) double-elimination tournament started on June 24 at Lobo Little League in Albuquerque, and East Mountain had a shot at winning both of its games.
But East Mountain lost to Zia Little League in the tournament opener in a controversial suspended game that started June 24 and concluded the next morning.
The loss dropped East Mountain to the consolation bracket to face Altamont Little League on Saturday afternoon.
Altamont took an early 7-1 lead, but East Mountain battled back. When Ortiz came home in the top of the sixth on Ryson Hopkins’ RBI base hit to tie the score at 9-9, East Mountain had a glimmer of hope.
“I didn’t even know I scored the tying run,” Ortiz said. “When I got into the dugout and started putting on my catcher’s gear, I saw the scoreboard—that was really cool.”
In the bottom of the sixth, Altamont got a runner on base who eventually scored the walk-off run to win the game 10-9 and eliminate East Mountain from the tournament.
“That batter got a hit and he got to third base, then a wild pitch and he scored,” East Mountain head coach Danilo Olivas said. “That was it.”
East Mountain took an early 1-0 lead when Rylen Olivas hit an infield ground ball that Altamont turned into a three-error bungle. Altamont’s shortstop fielded the grounder but airmailed his throw over first base and Olivas took off for second base. Altamont’s throw to second went into shallow left-center field and Olivas dashed to third. Altamont’s throw to third sailed high and Olivas raced home and beat the throw to the plate to give East Mountain its only lead of the game.
“I just kept running,” Olivas said, adding, “It’s nice to make a play like that.”
Altamont answered with 5 runs, and after a 30-minute weather delay, added two more.
East Mountain buckled down and slowly cut into Altamont’s lead.
Olivas, Silas Pierce—who took over on the mound in the second inning—and Gavin Pava all scored in the third inning to trim the deficit to 7-4.
In the fourth, Max Marquez reached on a fielder’s choice and Ortiz got on after getting hit by a pitch.
“This is my first All-Star appearance and I got nailed in the back,” Ortiz said.
Pierce drove in Marquez; Ortiz scored on a wild pitch; and Pierce came home on Altamont’s throwing error to knot the score at 7-7.
But East Mountain surrendered two more runs to Altamont in the bottom of the fourth.
In the fifth, Augustus Francis drove in Pava to make it 9-8.
After East Mountain tied the score in the sixth, Pierce got aboard but was stranded on base.
“This was a fun game,” Pierce said. “This second game was probably more fun than the first.”
The first game—the tournament opener against Zia—started promising for East Mountain but ended on a sour note.
Olivas drove in Pierce for the first run of the game and Wyatt Pitts came home on a bases-loaded walk to put East Mountain up 2-0.
Zia responded with a run in the bottom of the frame.
Pierce scored in the second inning to put East Mountain up 3-1, and Pava—who started on the mound—drove in Sterling Burkett in the fourth to make it 4-1.
In the fifth, East Mountain committed a couple of errors that allowed Zia to score three runs and tie the game at 4-4.
In the sixth, the scorekeeper discovered that Zia had made an improper substitution which is grounds for a protest. The game was delayed for almost an hour while the officials waited on a ruling from the Little League Southwest Regional office in Waco, TX. When the ruling finally came, it was too dark to continue playing—Lobo Little League’s field does not have lights—and the game was suspended until the next morning.
When the game resumed Saturday morning, East Mountain did not score any more runs. In the bottom of the sixth, Zia pushed a run across and won 5-4.
“That whole ruling thing that happened, I hoped it would’ve worked out a little faster and we could’ve finished the game the night before cuz the next day they shut us down,” coach Olivas said. “But the kids played pretty well, overall, it was great.”
East Mountain’s assistant coach, Jay Pierce—who piloted East Mountain’s 8—10 All-Stars to the state tournament three years ago—said the kids meshed well and were only a play or two away from winning either game.
“We look at the positive things they did, cuz there were some great plays,” coach Pierce said. “When the kids make plays like they did, that’s what they’ll hopefully remember, not that we lost two games.”