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CLL Majors team one win from district title

Paradise Hills’ base runner Zion Springer (in yellow) was clearly out on this first-inning play, being tagged by CLL catcher Robert Healy and still a few feet away from home plate. (Rio Rancho Observer—GARY HERRON photo)
Paradise Hills’ base runner Zion Springer (in yellow) was clearly out on this first-inning play, being tagged by CLL catcher Robert Healy and still a few feet away from home plate. (Rio Rancho Observer—GARY HERRON photo)
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Everybody follows the Cibola Little League Majors Division all-star team knows the team is potent offensively.

In its 11-0 rout of Paradise Hills Saturday morning, the CLL squad turned in three outstanding defensive plays that probably didn’t go unnoticed.

That victory put them into the District 8 championship game Tuesday evening, when they were to meet Paradise Hills or Petroglyph, whichever emerged out of the losers’ bracket Monday.

A CLL loss would set up an “if necessary” game Wednesday, with that game’s winner claiming the district title.

Here are the three top-notch defensive plays executed by CLL:

• In the bottom of the first inning, with two outs and two runners aboard, a single to right center was relayed from right fielder Ryan McGaha to second baseman Shawn Neie, whose high throw to catcher Robert Healy was caught — thankfully, Healy is pretty tall — and Healy tagged base runner Zion Springer for the final out of the inning. The tag was made during a collision at the plate, and although the PHLL manager protested the call to plate umpire John Sapien, the call stood. (See above photo for visual evidence of the call.)

• In the bottom of the second, with PHLL trailing 5-0 but with a runner at first, a line drive headed to right field was speared by first baseman Jaren Jackson, and he tagged the runner to complete an unassisted double play.

• In the third with a runner at second, compliments of CLL’s only two errors of the ballgame, a pitch eluded Healy and headed toward the backstop. The runner thought he could make it safely to third base — but he was wrong, as Healy fired a perfect throw to third baseman Adam Sheffield for the second out of the frame.

After starting pitcher Mitchell Winter had scattered three hits through the first three innings, reliever Neie pitched the fourth and final inning, due to the 10-run mercy rule, and didn’t allow a ball to be hit out of the infield.

Earlier, Healy and Jared Silva supplied RBI-doubles in the five-run first. Neie had an RBI double in the second, when Winter and Sheffield added RBI singles and Jackson drove in a run on a groundout.

Neie drove in CLL’s 10th run in the third and a groundout off the bat of pinch-hitter O’ryin Guhrke plated CLL’s final run of the game.

“Thirteen great players” is how manager Barry Kiess describes his team of all-stars. “As you can tell, we move kids around defensively and we just trust kids at all these positions. They’re playing great defense.

“The hard part is, I’ve got eight great pitchers and (it’s hard) getting them all into the game when they’re pitching so well,” he said.

Kiess said regardless of which team CLL met Tuesday, it’d be a great foe.

“Paradise hits the ball a little better than Petro, but at the same time, I think Petro’s more solid. Both teams are good,” he said. “The boys are starting to come around and hit — they haven’t hit like I know they can.”

District 5 will play host to the state Majors tournament; that begins at Zia Little League on Friday, July 19.

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