Morenci Lions Club hosts 42nd annual tourney after three-year delay

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Lake Washington captured the 41st Morenci Lions tourney by defeating Saint Johns 11-3 in five innings, Safford 7-0 (6 inn.), Thatcher 17-1 (5 inn.), and Morenci 15-1 (5 inn.). The Kangaroos also earned the Washington 3A state title six weeks later. Team members, kneeling from left, are Caden Fenberg, Ben Chorlton, Ricky Koishida, Jose Vizcarra, Nick Anderson, Wei-Ly Hsue, and Lane Kraabel; standing are assistant coaches Jared Neyens and Nick Pizzuto, I-Ly Hsue, Sam Biggers, Jordan Sacks, Travis Lee, Dylan Kennedy, Ryan Macomber, Jesus Vizcarro, Andrew Urrutia, James Gardner, Ryan Thomson, Torin Montgomery, Oliver Laufman, Nation Wood, head coach Derek Bingham, and assistant coach Don Howarth.

Duncan opens the three-day meet with Saint David

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The Morenci Lions Club will be holding its rescheduled 42nd tourney, with 15 games being played in Francis Waldorf Stadium, Thursday-Saturday, April 7-9. It was originally intended for 2020, but a global health crisis delayed it until this Spring.

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Willcox, a 20-time tourney finalist, earned its 13th title in 2018. The Cowboys defeated Mogollon 11-0, Safford 7-4, and Morenci 11-1. Members of the team were, not in order, Christian Brown, Adrian Fuentes, Andrew Gallagher, Josh Gallagher, Caiden Hall, Robert Lopez, Eli Madrid, Jimmy Norris, Ote Allsup, David Peterson, Josh Rios, Sherrick Sanborn, William Teeters, Brady Welch, and Damian Vasquez.

The service group hosts a field of nine teams, the 3A South Central Region Florence Gophers and Thatcher Eagles plus the South Region Safford Bulldogs; the 2A South Region Miami Vandals, East Region Morenci Wildcats and Pima Roughriders, and North Region Saint Johns Redskins; and the 1A South Region Duncan Wildkats and Saint David Tigers.

At week’s starts, Saint David (14-1 overall, 1-9 seeding, 11.1264 rating, 1-0 region) was ranked No. 3 and Duncan (4-6, 3-5, minus 3.8575, 0-0 region) No. 18 in 1A; Miami (16-2, 12-0, 9.5820, 5-0) No. 4, Pima (6-4, 6-4, 2.7876, 1-3 region) No. 11, Morenci (8-6, 6-4, 2.6212, 2-3 region) No. 12, and Saint Johns (4-6, 3-6, minus 4.7353, 2-1 region) No. 29 in 2A; and Florence (9-7, 5-5, 4.9962, 2-1 region) No. 15, Thatcher (12-3, 5-3, 3.1467, 3-0 region) No. 20, and Safford (5-8, 3-6, 0.1692, 1-2 region) No. 27 in 3A.

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Pima’s baseball team ended first in the 2017 Morenci Lions Club tourney, the first during 32 meets entered. The Roughriders topped Safford 5-4, Miami 13-6 in five innings, and Thatcher 8-4 for the title. Members of the history-setting team are, kneeling from left Jesus Hernandez, Manny Rivera, Curtis Larson, Elijah Bryce, and Josh Draper. Standing are assistant coach Michael Contreras, Josh Whitaker, Tyson Hawkins, Travis James, Justin Kartchner, Emilio Molinar, Jarrett Kartchner, Frank Gutierrez, Teddy Rector, Jacob Nelson, Alex Serna, assistant coach Sam Rivera, and head coach Greg Cooper.

The Vandals are averaging a 17-3 (309-54) score per game or a 14-run margin, the Tigers a 10-3 (151-39) score per game or a 7-run margin, the Eagles a 10-5 (149-69) score per game or a 5-run margin, the Wildcats an 8-6 (111-87) score per game or a 2-run margin, the Roughriders an 8-6 (87-56) score per game or a 2-run margin, the Bulldogs a 7-6 (85-77) score per game or a 1-run margin, the Gophers a 7-7 (118-118) score per game, the Wildkats a 7-8 (72-77) score per game or a 1-run deficit, and the Redskins a 6-7 (62-74) score per game or a 1-run deficit.

Duncan and Saint David open the tourney at 10 a.m., followed by Thatcher and Florence at 12:15 p.m., Miami and Pima at 2:30 p.m., Saint Johns and Safford at 4:45 p.m., and Morenci with the Duncan – Saint David winner at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 7.

The third-place game is at 2:45 p.m. and the championship game at 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 9.

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Morenci ended first in the 2016 tourney, the 13th title during 38 meets, and has been an eight-time runner-up. The Wildcats topped Pima 9-0, Thatcher 9-1, Konowa (OK) 7-4, and Miami 12-2. Members of the team were, not in order, Isaiah Aguinaga, Justice Boling, David Corona, Tayson Daniels, Roman Garcia, Sergio Garcia, Caiden Harper, Danny Leyvas, Ty Manuz, Brayden McCarthy, Andrew Nofchissey, Michael Ortiz, Erik Rios, Josh Ruedas, Miguel Ruiz, and Esai Vanegas.

Tourney History

Through the previous 41 tourneys, 27 state finalists have prepared for the post-season in Morenci, with 16 finishing as state champions. Long after the grills in the newly christened “Roy’s Cook Shack” went silent and the 2019 tourney ended, three of the 12 tourney participants ended as state finalists. Heber Mogollon and Lake Washington earned state titles, and Morenci finished as state runners-up.

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Lake Washington outfielder Nation Wood dispatched two home runs in Morenci; the first tied a team record of five and the second set a new mark. He finished with eight and was the state leader in runs batted in with 39, plus one of four Kangaroos selected to the all-state team. Wood was selected as the 2019 Lions tourney MVP, Willcox senior Sherrick Sanborn won the award in 2018, Pima senior Travis James in 2017, and Morenci senior Miguel Ruiz in 2016.

Individual players netted all-region honors, 24 on the first team, 23 on the second team, and 17 honorable mentions; a region player of the year, an offensive player of the year, and a defensive player of the year; 18 all-conference (all-state) honors, 10 on the first team, seven on the second team, and a player of the year.  Four coaches were also honored on both the region and state level, three as region coach of the year and one as state coach of the year.

Additionally, the Washington state entrant had 11 all-district honorees, five on the first team, three on the second team, and three honorable mentions as well as four of 34 all-state selectees and the state coach of the year.

Over the past 19 seasons (2003-21), the nine 2022 Morenci Lions Tourney participants have gone a combined 100-96 at Arizona state championship tourneys. Saint Johns (12-16) qualified for 18 tourneys; Morenci (14-12) for 13; Saint David (15-10), Thatcher (12-12), and Miami (9-12) for 12; Duncan (13-9) for 11; Safford (11-9) and Pima (10-9) for 10; and Florence (5-8) for eight.

In that same span, seven of the nine teams were state finalists, with Saint David (2003, ’12, ’21), Duncan (2004, ’05), Saint Johns (2007), and Pima (2016) finishing as champions and Thatcher (2005), Duncan (2006), Saint David (2011), Safford (2017), and Morenci (2019) as runners-up.

The current tourney field has lofted the championship trophy a total of 34 times.

Other Participants

Grand Canyon State teams have not solely attended. The Sooner State (1), the Evergreen State (1), the Golden State (7), and the Land of Enchantment (11) have also been represented. The previous out-of-state participant came for the 41st (2019) meet.

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: Third-year Morenci head coach Michael Davis along with assistant Mark Martinez hold up the 2014 retired jersey banner. It was the number worn by 1986 grad Daniel B. Lopez, owner of 10 school records by the time he received his diploma.

Thirty-nine different school teams with 30 different mascots have been hosted. Two other schools and one different mascot are being welcomed this year.

Other participating teams and the number of years attended have been Willcox (35), Clifton (30), Winkelman Hayden (20), Heber Mogollon (19), Elfrida Valley Union (13), New Mexico Lordsburg (10), Joseph City (8), San Carlos (7), California Winterhaven San Pasqual (7), Round Valley (6), Holbrook (5); Bagdad (4), Douglas (4), Kearny Ray (4); Snowflake (3), Bowie / San Simon (2), Chino Valley (2), Fort Thomas (2), Many Farms (2), Maricopa (2), Laveen Betty H. Fairfax (2), Laveen Cesar Chavez (2), Whiteriver Alchesay (2) and Williams (2).

One-time participants have been New Mexico Deming (1993), Lakeside Blue Ridge (2000), Winslow (2000), Morenci’s junior varsity (2002), Glendale Cactus (2015), Oklahoma’s Konawa (2016), Phoenix Christian (2019), and Washington Kirkland Lake Washington (2019).

Tourney Finalists

Raymundo Frasquillo File Photo/Gila Herald: A second banner adorns the leftfield fence, 4-Cam, assistant coach Cameron Jared Austin Bryant Orona. He lost his life on Easter Sunday 2021.

Willcox was a 20-time finalist, ending as champion 13 times (1986, ’91, ’93, ’98, 2000, ’01, ’05, ’06, ’10, ’12, ’13, ’15, ’18) and seven as the runner-up (1987, ’90, ’92, ’96, ’97, 2011, ’14); Hayden won the first meet in 1979 plus two more (1987, 1990) and was runner-up five times (1983, ’84, ’85, ’88, ’99); Douglas was also a three-time champion (1983, ’84, ’95); Ray finished first twice (2008, ’09); Chino Valley (2002) and Lake Washington (2019) were both champions once; Clifton was runner-up four times (1991, ’93, ’94, 2002), Mogollon twice (2001, ’06), and Snowflake (2004), Valley Union (2005), and Holbrook (2008) once each.

Morenci Lions Club

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Lions club members, wives, neighbors, and friends gathered to prepare pork for the upcoming tourney, two weeks prior. The meat was cooked for 12 hours before unearthed, pulled, iced, and frozen for storage until needed for burros sold at the three-day tourney.

The Morenci Lions Club is providing a venue, a three-day baseball tourney, to make dreams come true, not only for the participants and spectators but for those needing aid with vision problems in Greenlee County. A week-long camp for special needs youngsters ages seven and up is also financed by the group. All proceeds from this athletic meet go towards that end. The club treasurer reported a net intake of $9,000 after the final bills came in for the 2018 tourney, with $4,000 immediately earmarked for student scholarships. The 2019 tourney had identical numbers reported.