Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Teams lined up after each game to shake hands or high-five one another in the sportsmanship ritual. The Morenci Lions baseball tourney continues on Saturday, April 22 beginning with Duncan versus Saint Johns at 8:30 a.m. The three-day meet concludes with Hayden taking on Safford for the title at 6:30 p.m.
By Raymundo Frasquillo
MORENCI – Winkelman Hayden and Safford meet for the title of the 43rd Morenci Lions baseball tourney on Saturday, April 22. The three-day meet championship game starts at 6:30 p.m. in Francis Waldorf Stadium. The Lobos and Bulldogs are both multi-state meet finalists and multi-state champions. Hayden is 9-6 in the state finals and 3-5 as a Morenci Lions Tourney finalist. Safford is 4-4 in the state finals and in its initial Morenci Lions Tourney championship game.
Top-ranked 1A Hayden (20-3 overall) qualified for the title game by outscoring two opponents 34-14, defeating 3A No. 22 Thatcher 12-5 on April 20 and 2A No. 11 Morenci 22-9 on April 21.
Safford (13-8-1) reached the title game totaling 28-4 runs, downing 3A No. 11 Florence 11-2 and 2A No. 26 Saint Johns 17-2 as 3A No. 21.
A consolation round first game has the 1A No. 15 Duncan Wildkats (9-12) facing the 2A No. Saint Johns Redskins (7-13-1) at 8:30 a.m. Duncan succumbed 3-11 to Pima on April 20 and 11-12 to Mogollon on April 21 while Saint Johns fell to Safford and 2-9 to Pima.
The Florence Gophers (16-8) meet the 3A No. 22 Thatcher Eagles (11-12) at 11 a.m. and Morenci (10-11-1) faces 2A No. 7 Pima (13-9) at 1:30 p.m. The two winners meet at 4 p.m. to decide third place.
Florence and Morenci advanced to the semifinal round via wins of 11-3 over Heber Mogollon and 13-5 over Pima, respectively, on April 20.
Hayden (13-2 seeding) is 9-0 for the first of seven in the 1A East Region, Mogollon (6-6) 4-5 for the fourth of seven in the 1A East Region, Duncan (8-8) 6-4 for the third of eight in the 1A South Region, Pima (9-6) 6-5 for the fourth of seven in the 2A East Region, Morenci (9-7) 5-6 for the fifth of seven in the 2A East Region, Saint Johns (7-9) 5-1 for the second of seven in the 2A North Region, Florence (11-5) 3-4 for the fifth of nine in the 3A South Central Region, Safford (7-8) 3-4 for the fifth of eight in the 3A South Region, and Thatcher (8-9) 3-4 for the sixth of eight in the 3A South Region.
In 2022, 20-time participant and three-time state champion Mogollon went 4-0 to end as a state champion; 21-time participant and nine-time state champion Hayden went 2-1 to end as a semifinalist; 43-time participant and two-time state champion Morenci went 1-1 to end as a quarterfinalist; 42-time participant Thatcher went 1-1 to end as a quarterfinalist; 36-time participant and one-time state champion Pima fell in the play-in round; 21-time participant and two-time state champion Saint Johns fell in the play-in round; two-time participant and four-time state champion Florence was bumped out by No. 25 and North Region champion Page; six-time participant and four-time state champion Safford was bumped out by No. 29 and North Region runner-up Fort Defiance Window Rock; and 33-time participant and two-time state champion Duncan did not qualify.
The nine teams have a combined 110-102 record in the state tourney during the past 20 years (2003-2022).