The 43rd annual Morenci Lions baseball tourney draws near

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Frank Kerrigan mends gaps in the protective backstop fence to keep foul balls out of the seating area. The long-time district maintenance employee did the repair work earlier in the season.

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – Eight teams will be joining the Christopher Aguallo-coached Wildcats for the 43rd annual Morenci Lions baseball tourney later this month. Teams scheduled to participate number three 1A, three 2A, and three 3A Class members. Each of them has taken part in prior meets, now in its fifth decade of existence.

The 9-team field includes the 1A Duncan Wildkats, the Heber Mogollon Mustangs, and the Winkelman Hayden Lobos; the 2A Morenci Wildcats, the Pima Roughriders, and the Saint Johns Redskins; along with the 3A Florence Gophers, the Safford Bulldogs, and the Thatcher Eagles.

The nine teams have a combined 110-102 record in the state tourney during the past 20 years (2003-2022). If the regular season ended this past weekend, seven of the nine teams would be involved in the post-season based on the rankings.

Coming out of the Easter weekend, Hayden (16-3 overall, 11-2 seeding, 7.4532 rating, 7-0 East Region for 1st) was ranked No. 2, Mogollon (6-6, 5-3, 0.7023, 3-2 East Region for 2nd) No. 9, and Duncan (8-6, 7-4, 0.0009, 6-2 South Region for 3rd) No. 11 in 1A; Morenci (7-9-1, 7-6, 1.6456, 5-5 East Region for 4th) No. 8, Pima (6-7, 4-5, 0.1419, 3-4 East Region for 6th) No. 13, and Saint Johns (5-8-1, 4-7, minus 7.2103, 4-1 North Region for 2nd) No. 27 in 2A; and Florence (13-5, 9-3, 8.2255, 1-2 South Central Region for 6th) No. 7, Safford (7-7-1, 5-6, 2.0990, 3-3 South Region for 5th) No. 22, and Thatcher (7-11, 5-9, 0.4739, 2-6 South Region for 6th) No. 26 in 3A.

In 2022, 20-time participant and 3-time state champion Mogollon went 4-0 to end as a state champion; 21-time participant and 9-time state champion Hayden went 2-1 to end as a semifinalist; 43-time participant and 2-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 1-time state champion Pima fell in the play-in round; 21-time participant and 2-time state champion Saint Johns fell in the play-in round; 2-time participant and 4-time state champion Florence was bumped out by No. 25 and North Region champion Page; 6-time participant and 4-time state champion Safford was bumped out by No. 29 and North Region runner-up Fort Defiance Window Rock; and 33-time participant and 2-time state champion Duncan did not qualify.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The field is prepared for the next day following the conclusion of the practice sessions. Head coach Christopher Aguallo waters down the infield before leaving.

Pima hosts Duncan in the 8:30 a.m. tourney opener on April 20, followed by Hayden hosting Thatcher at 11 am., Safford hosting Saint Johns at 1:30 p.m., Florence hosting Mogollon at 4 p.m., and Morenci taking on the Pima – Duncan winner at 6:30 p.m.

Until that date arrives, a total of 35 games will have been played by the nine participants. Coaches will tell their teams to focus on one game at a time, take care of business, and not be concerned with whom they have coming up.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The Francis Waldorf Stadium stands are ready for baseball fans to sit, view, and enjoy the tourney games later this month. A total of 15 games will be played during the three-day meet, April 20-22.

This week (April 10-15), Morenci hosts Saint Johns, Pima hosts Bisbee on Monday, April 10; Duncan hosts Fort Thomas, Florence visits Coolidge, Mogollon hosts Hayden, Safford visits Tucson Pusch Ridge on Tuesday, April 11; Pima hosts Tucson Santa Rita, Saint Johns visits Flagstaff Northland Prep on April 12; Morenci hosts San Carlos, Pima visits Tucson Empire, Duncan visits Elfrida Valley Union, Safford visits Tucson Pueblo, Saint Johns hosts Many Farms on Thursday, April 13; Pima visits Tombstone, Duncan visits Tucson Desert Christian, Florence visits Queen Creek American Leadership – Ironwood, Mogollon visits Lincoln Prep, Safford hosts Tucson Palo Verde Magnet, Thatcher visits Snowflake on April 14; and Saint Johns hosts Sedona Red Rock, Thatcher visits Lakeside Blue Ridge on April 15.

Next week (April 17-22), Duncan hosts Saint David, Florence visits Queen Creek Benjamin Franklin, Saint Johns hosts Chinle, Safford visits Douglas, Thatcher visits Palo Verde Magnet on April 17; Morenci visits Tombstone, Pima visits Willcox, Duncan visits Ray, Mogollon visits Superior for a double-header, Hayden hosts Fort Thomas on April 18; and Florence visits Florence American Leadership – Anthem South, Pima hosts Round Valley, Saint Johns hosts Whiteriver Alchesay on April 19.