The last time an East Mountain Little League Minors Division All-Star team won a district championship, Google and social media didn’t exist, a gallon of gas cost about $1.10, and Vista Grande Community Complex in Sandia Park—where the league is based—hadn’t been built yet.
But on June 29, after going undefeated in New Mexico District 5 Little League’s 8- to 10-year old division tournament, EMLL’s Minors All-Stars hoisted the district champions’ banner—the league’s first district title in that age group since 1994.
“From the very first practice, we made it clear that all we expected from them was effort,” head coach Jay Pierce said, adding, “I’m proud of them, they did everything we asked them to do.”
During the seven-team, double-elimination tournament, June 24-29 at Mile High Little League’s field in Albuquerque, East Mountain’s All-Stars defeated All-Star teams from Roadrunner Little League, Zia Little League, and Thunderbird Little League before rallying to a 19-9 victory over Altamont Little League in the championship contest.
“Our pitchers threw strikes, our hitters swung at strikes, we ran the bases pretty well, our defense was great, and our catcher was phenomenal—he had a great series,” Pierce said.
In the championship matchup against Altamont, East Mountain fell behind 4-0 in the top of the first inning.
East Mountain Little League responded in the home-half of the frame with three runs, buoyed by Jake Bibo’s two-RBI triple to trim the gap to 4-3.
Altamont added three runs in the top of the second to push ahead 7-3.
But East Mountain erupted for eight runs in the bottom of the second—all with just two hits—to forge ahead 11-7.
Bosten Richards started the inning off with an infield base hit. He then advanced to second base, third base, and eventually scored—all on wild pitches that got past Altamont’s catcher.
“It takes a lot of hard work to learn how to go if there’s a passed ball,” Richards said. “It was really exciting because it started all of it.”
E.J. Lucero—East Mountain’s catcher—also scored on the same passed ball that scored Richards.
The only other hit during the second inning was an RBI double by Ryan Moorehead that drove in Clinton Moya.
“I was hoping we could get in some more runs so we could win,” Moorehead said.
Moya, who came in to pitch in the top of the second inning, gave up a lead-off single in the top of the third, but EMLL got out of the inning holding Altamont scoreless.
“That was the big [momentum] shift,” Pierce said. “When it was 11-7, we talked about holding them and scoring 11 runs and going home because it would’ve been 22-7 at the end of that inning, and our kids believed that we were going to score 11 more.”
Two consecutive RBI singles by Bibo and Liam Pierce helped propel a five-run third to extend East Mountain’s lead to 16-7.
Altamont plated a pair of runs in the top of the fourth before Moya struck out a batter and EMLL’s defense turned two groundballs into outs to end the inning.
Moorehead, Scott Batie, and Micah Kamplain scored in the bottom of the fourth to end the game on the 10-run mercy rule.
In the June 24 tournament opener, East Mountain scored six runs in the third inning to get past Roadrunner 7-4.
The next day, EMLL beat Zia 5-4 on a walk-off bloop single by Bibo with two outs in the bottom of the sixth that drove in Batie.
EMLL’s wildest game during the tournament was the June 27 matchup with Thunderbird.
EMLL built a 7-1 lead before falling behind 8-7.
With two outs in the top of the sixth, Batie stroked an RBI double to drive in Lucero and tie the game at 8-8 to send it into extra innings.
In the seventh, Moorehead, Bibo, Richards, and Kenner Webb all scored, and relief pitcher Liam Pierce–who pitched the final two frames–held Thunderbird scoreless to help secure the 12-8 victory.
“There were a lot of lucky bounces for us to win those first few games—we very easily could’ve lost those first two,” Pierce said, adding, “We had a long talk about the difference between not wanting to be the loser versus wanting to be the winner, and I think 8, 9 and 10 year olds don’t often have that pressure, and so this was a great experience for them all.”