Grand Mesa Major girls ready for Southwestern Regional
The Grand Mesa Little League Major girls can finally breathe.
Grand Mesa begins play in the Southwestern Regional tournament Friday night against the winner of today’s game between the New Mexico and Texas East representatives in Waco, Texas.
“We didn’t think about getting to Texas until we got out of state,” Grand Mesa coach Kevin Rubalcaba said. “Now that we’re here, we can see what happens.”
Grand Mesa’s road to this point hasn’t been easy. Grand Mesa had three battles with Fruita in the District 1 tournament. Grand Mesa won the first game 7-5, lost in a potential championship game 9-2, then defeated Fruita 6-5 in the final.
“As a coaching staff, we knew getting through districts would be the worst part,” Rubalcaba said. “Fruita was a really solid team and we had to fight back in the two games we won.”
Once Grand Mesa advanced to the state tournament in Westminster, it didn’t get any easier.
Grand Mesa rallied from a 5-3 deficit in the fifth inning to defeat Shaw Heights for the state title.
“We’ve preached the team concept,” Rubalcaba said. “We were two different teams during the season, and we told them if you want to do anything, you have to come together.”
Grand Mesa is an experienced group with nine 12-year-olds and two 11-year-olds. Rubalcaba said the club’s strength is pitching and defense.
Grand Mesa has given up an average of five runs per game during its six games of Little League tournaments.
“Our defense has been solid,” Rubalcaba said. “We’ve had our fair share of errors, but we’ve made the play when we’ve needed to.”
Grand Mesa’s top two pitchers are Sierra Batchelor and Jordyn Hays.
“This group has some really good pitching,” Rubalcaba said.
Offensively, Rubalcaba said it’s been a collective effort throughout the lineup.
“Every kid has done something at some point to contribute to a win,” Rubalcaba said.
Rubalcaba was an assistant with a Grand Mesa Majors team that qualified for the Southwestern tournament in 2009.
Rubalcaba said it’s important to understand the environment of the tournament.
“We are trying to get our girls prepared for everything,” Rubalcaba said. “There will definitely be some girls down there that can throw the ball.”
Grand Mesa has the advantage of not having to play the first day.
“Getting out there and watching the first day will help,” Rubalcaba said. “They will see that they are 12 years old just like we are.”
It’s a double-elimination tournament. If Grand Mesa wins Friday. It plays at 7 p.m. Sunday.
A first-round loss puts Grand Mesa in an elimination game at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The championship game is at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“We are hoping to compete, have fun and try to win some games,” Rubalcaba said. “But one of the biggest reasons to go is this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for them and we want them to enjoy it.”