East Mountain Little League’s Intermediate 50/70 state champion baseball team started strong but then dropped three straight games at last weekend’s Southwest Regional Tournament in Grand Junction, Colo.
After a big win in their first game of the pool-play opening round, the New Mexico state champs faltered against the two Texas state-champion teams.
East Mountain was ultimately dispatched by Mississippi’s state champion in Monday’s quarterfinals game.
“I’m in an emotional vacuum right now,” East Mountain’s head coach Brian Bagon said after Monday’s elimination loss, adding, “It’s a weird feeling—I’m incredibly proud of this team but I’m sad for the kids because it’s over.”
In the 8-6 defeat to the team from Starkville, Miss., East Mountain erased a 5-2 deficit in the fourth inning on back-to-back RBI doubles by Deshawn Griego and Garrett Hitchcock to knot the score at 5-5. “I knew at that point we would keep challenging Mississippi,” Bagon said.
But Starkville responded in the following frame with 3 more runs and East Mountain scored just once more when Josiah Chavez drove in Christopher Coash in the top of the seventh.
Cole Phillips scored 3 runs for East Mountain.
“The one thing about these boys is they never gave up—they fought hard to the very end,” Bagon said.
The Mississippi loss came on the heels of consecutive defeats to both teams from Texas: 12-1 on Saturday to the Texas-West team from San Angelo; and 21-2 on Sunday to Texas-East from Houston. Both games ended in the fifth inning on the 10-run mercy rule.
“It was like a Class 1A team playing a 6A team,” Bagon said of the contests against the Texas teams. “I heard the Houston league has over a thousand players and [East Mountain Little League] has 300. It’s hard to compete with that.”
Heavy rain and lightning forced last Friday’s opening-round game to be moved to Saturday morning where East Mountain cruised past the Colorado state champion team 13-3 in five innings.
East Mountain scored 4 runs in the first inning and added runs in every inning thereafter.
“We were so fired up—we were just solid in that game,” Bagon said. “We were firing on all cylinders.”
By winning the New Mexico District 5 tournament last month and the state tournament July 7 in Clovis to advance to the Southwest Regionals, East Mountain’s Intermediate 50/70 All-Stars advanced further in postseason play than any team in EMLL’s 28-year history.
“It’s nice to be part of history, but I’m sad to see it’s over,” Bagon said. “This has consumed all of our lives for the past two months. Now we all have to go back to work.”