Coaches and parents wanted to take photos of the 18U Aggies following their celebratory dogpile Tuesday at the Ray Kroc Baseball Complex. The players, the majority of whom are local to the Yuma area, held up three fingers to signal their third consecutive Cecil Fielder Winter Classic championship.
The Aggies and their 16U counterparts won each of their respective tournaments, and both teams went undefeated for a combined 10-0 record since the competition began Saturday.
“It’s a great experience,” said Saul Marquez, who graduated from Yuma High in the spring and is a freshman at Luna College in Las Vegas, N.M. “I like how we continue to win. Everyone gets along well.
“It means a lot because everyone overlooks Yuma. It just shows that we can play.”
Marquez and many of his teammates were on the 16U Aggies team that won the championship in 2013. The same group won last year in the 18U bracket.
“It’s good because Yuma’s a great baseball community,” said Aggies coach Lupe Chavez, who coaches in Watsonville, Calif. “It’s always been a rich baseball town. Our goal is to get these guys and get them into college. … Being a town on the border, a lot of people don’t come and see them.”
Marquez started for the 18U Aggies in the championship game against the SoCal Rangers. He struggled with his control in the second inning, walking three straight batters. Three runs came across in the frame, and the Aggies were in a rare position of trailing in a game, 3-2. They tied the game at 3-3 in the third.
Hernan Yanez began the bottom of the fourth with an inside-the-park home run to reclaim the Aggies’ lead. Kofa’s Raymundo Torres then hit a single, and would later score. San Luis’ Ramon Miranda also added a single in the inning, which ended with the Aggies on top, 6-3.
Miranda, just a junior in a group of mostly seniors or college freshmen, was excited for the opportunity to play with the 18U club. This was his third tournament on the team.
“It’s a pretty nice group of kids,” Miranda said. “I feel special because they gave me the opportunity to play with them.
“All of us play against each other in the city, in the high schools. When we get together, we’re a really good team.”
Miranda, a shortstop for the Sidewinders last year as a sophomore, played second base. Sahid Valenzuela — who was once at Kofa before moving to Watsonville, and will play for college-baseball powerhouse Cal State Fullerton next fall — was the team’s shortstop.
“He’s a very good player,” Miranda said. “We’ve been playing together since we were little, but then he moved to California. It’s pretty nice sharing the middle infield with him. I get to learn a lot from him, as well as the other players.”
Joey Miranda, a freshman at Arizona Western and four-year starter for Yuma Catholic, was 1-for-2 with an RBI single.
The Aggies made it 7-3 in the sixth. Cibola’s Aaron Hernandez threw two innings, allowed one hit and struck out three. He was the winning pitcher. Juan Mendez pitched the final three frames, and earned the save.
16U Aggies Black come back from down 3 to win title
The 16U squad had a harder time clamping down the championship, but they prevailed with a three-run sixth inning to take their first lead of the game, and beat the Imperial Valley Baseball Network, 5-3.
The Aggies Black team got the game within one run after being down 3-0. In the bottom of the sixth, after a game-tying single, coach Roger Varela called for a squeeze play. Ricky Munoz’s bunt was perfect, and they got the lead.
Izaak Varela added an insurance with an RBI single to make it 5-3.
“They wanted it,” Roger Varela said. “The whole time, they kept on battling and really cheering themselves on. They pulled it out. I’m very, very proud of them.
“You could tell they were hungry. We saw the other team, they were doubting themselves a little bit. We took advantage of that.”
Aggies Black has a roster of almost all Yuma players, with the exception of one from Tucson. Though most are young and have not had varsity experience for the most part, the team’s success shows promise for area high schools in the coming years. Aggies Black allowed just 10 runs over their five tournament games.
“Most of these guys that are 16U are going to play varsity, some already played varsity last year,” Roger Varela said. “They’re going to be big, impact players.”
The Aggies Red team, the 15U group, fell to IVBN in the semifinals.