East Mountain Little League’s first All-Stars team in two years played well enough to win two games in the New Mexico District 5 All-Stars Tournament that started June 25 at Roadrunner Little League in Albuquerque.
But East Mountain surrendered one big inning in each of its two losses that ultimately led to elimination from the tournament.
“Yeah, one bad inning, it’s hard to stop it,” East Mountain’s head coach Jay Pierce said after the team got knocked out of the tournament by Altamont Little League’s All-Stars.
The double-elimination tournament was District 5’s first since 2019. There was no All-Stars tournament last year due to Covid-19.
Pierce’s All-Stars team consisted of 10- to 12-year-old players who played in East Mountain Little League’s Majors Division this season.
The winner of the 10- to 12-year-old district tournament advances to the state tournament, and the state winner advances to the Southwest Regional Tournament in Waco, Texas. The Southwest Regional winner advances to Williamsport, Pennsylvania—the home of the Little League World Series Tournament.
East Mountain’s team went 2-2 in the D-5 tournament, winning its first and third games but dropping its second and fourth games.
In the June 25 opener against the Thunderbird Little League All-Stars, East Mountain had two big innings of its own that led to a whopping 22-1 blowout.
Doubles by Ryan Moorhead, Liam Pierce and Bosten Richards highlighted East Mountain’s nine-run second inning. The team erupted for 13 more runs in the top of the fifth inning. The game ended after the bottom of the fifth on the 10-run mercy rule.
“Everything went right,” Pierce said. “We got on a roll, our hitters were aggressive, and Thunderbird’s demeanor, you could tell that they were down, they kind of gave up.”
The next day, East Mountain went toe-to-toe with Zia Little League through the first four and a half innings. After Moorhead, Liam Pierce and Micah Kamplain each scored in the top of the fifth inning, East Mountain held a 5-4 lead. But Zia exploded for 11 runs in the bottom of the frame and won 15-5 on the mercy rule.
“That one big inning killed us,” Pierce said. “All of a sudden, it was just an avalanche when they came to bat, we just could not get an out and that was it.”
The loss bumped East Mountain to the consolation side of the bracket where the team beat Lobo Little League 11-8. East Mountain scored two runs in the first inning, four in the second, one in the third, and four in the fifth.
“We hit the ball well, our starting pitcher, Liam Pierce, threw four-plus innings and we held them down, so I think that was the kicker,” coach Pierce said. “We got a lead and just kinda built on it.”
Then came the June 29 showdown against Altamont.
Kamplain and Liam Pierce scored in the bottom of the first inning to give East Mountain an early 2-0 lead.
But in the top of the second, four walks and three East Mountain errors helped Altamont plate six runs.
“We had one bad inning, again,” coach Pierce said.
East Mountain got runners aboard in the second, third and fifth innings but stranded them on base.
Altamont added two more runs in the fourth.
East Mountain’s last chance came in the bottom of the sixth when Owen Darnell hit a one-out double and advanced to third base on a wild pitch. Wesley Francis kept the inning alive when he drew a two-out walk. Clinton Moya sliced a fly ball to right field that looked like it had a chance to drive in Darnell. But Altamont’s right fielder made a diving catch to end the game and win 8-2.
“We had runners in scoring position at the end of the game and their right fielder makes possibly the best catch of his life,” Pierce said after the loss, adding, “It wasn’t for lack of effort, we just got beat, we didn’t do the things we needed to do.”