SURPRISE, Ariz. — The Orcutt Babe Ruth 14-year-old All-Stars won their first battle Sunday night in the Arizona desert.
Their second was delayed by Mother Nature.
The All-Stars were supposed to play Bel-Mateo, the Northern California champions, in the opening game of the Babe Ruth Southwest Regionals championship tournament at 11 a.m. Monday on the Surprise Recreation Campus — the spring training home of the Kansas City Royals and Texas Rangers.
But the game was rained out as heavy thunderstorms and lightning swept through the Phoenix area.
“The weather is fine right now and I think we could have played this afternoon,” said Orcutt manager James Steels during a late afternoon telephone interview. “But they talked about flash flooding — there was actually a flash flood warning — and the Babe Ruth officials didn’t want to take any chances so all of the scheduled games were called off.”
A seemingly simple solution would be to just push the entire tournament back one day.
But that solution was anything but simple.
“They talked about pushing it all back a day but some teams have already made flight arrangements for their trips home,” said Steels. “Our team just drove here but some teams, like Hawaii, flew in and changing their flights would have been both difficult and expensive so we’re all doubling up on games Tuesday to get the tournament back on track so it will still finish Friday.”
Under the new schedule, two teams will play three games Tuesday while others will play twice and four teams will play only once.
“The Northern Utah team (Mueller Park) will play the host team, Surprise, at 10 a.m. Tuesday. The winner faces Hawaii at 1 p.m. and the loser of that game plays an elimination bracket game at 7 p.m.,” said Steels. “There will be several teams facing that three-games in one day scenario.”
“We’ll play Bel-Mateo at 10 in the morning. The winner moves on to an 8 a.m. game Wednesday. The loser is in a 7 p.m. elimination game Tuesday night so the best thing for us is to win Tuesday,” said Steels. “That’s our plan — beat Bel-Mateo Tuesday and come back again in the winner’s bracket Wednesday.”
The results of Tuesday's games were not available at press time.
All nine teams got together Sunday night for the opening ceremonies and pre-tournament banquet.
That’s where Orcutt notched its first win.
“Instead of a coin toss to determine the home team, we had a game of “rock-paper-scissors” against Bel-Mateo,” said Steels. “Last year, Quigley Espinola won us the home team so the boys voted for him to represent us again. It was best two-out-of-three and Quigley lost the first throw. Quigley and the boy from Bel-Mateo then tied 13 straight times before, on the 15th throw, “Q” tied it up. It took three more throws for Quigley to win it so we’re the home team for our opening game. It was crazy. The whole crowd was really into it.”
Despite the rainout, the team has been busy.
Most of the players arrived in Surprise Saturday and almost immediately headed to the “It’s All In The Game” batting cages.
“The batting cages are owned by Joe Mastroti. He’s from Santa Maria and he gave us a discount,” said Steels. “On Monday, we were all down in the lobby ready to head over to our game when we got word that all the day’s games were rained out. The boys were really disappointed. But they didn’t let that keep them from getting in a little work. They wanted to go back to the batting cages, so we headed back over there.”
There was some hitting against pitching machines and some against live pitching.
“Each of the boys got in about 100 swings,” said Steels. “And we wanted to get all six of our starting pitchers some work so we had each of them throw 25 to 30 pitches.
“The plan was to have Isaiah Navarro start the opener with Caleb Dulay ready for our second game. With the change in schedule, we’re going to have to re-think our strategy. We have to plan for the possibility of playing two games Tuesday so we’re going to have to keep our options open.”
After Monday’s session at the batting cages, it was time for a little rest, relaxation and recognition.
“We’re about to head out to the Arizona Diamondbacks game (against Atlanta),” said Steels. “All the teams are going to be introduced on the field before the game. The boys are pretty excited.”