Photo by Beau Bearden.
KINGMAN – The bottom of the fourth inning wasn’t kind to the Kingman South Little League squad Thursday at Southside Park. Needles entered the frame with a three-run lead, but exploded for seven runs to run rule Kingman South by a score of 12-2 in the first round of the Majors Tournament of Champions.
Little League: Kingman South vs. Needles - June 7, 2018
The Kingman South Little League squad dropped a 12-2 loss to Needles Thursday in the first round of the single-elimination Majors Tournament of Champions at Southside Park. Photos by Beau Bearden.
“We didn’t hit the ball like we normally can,” said Kingman South manager Shane Duraggo. “But at the same time, they gave everything. We had a couple of mental mistakes hurt us in one of the innings, but I’m still proud of them. They’re a heck of a group of guys.”
Unfortunately, the group had to endure a heartbreaking end to their year. It appeared Kingman South turned an inning-ending double play in the fourth, but the umpire called the runner safe at first.
In the commotion of the play, Needles didn’t hesitate and scored the game-winning run.
“I’ve taught my first baseman to catch the ball and get off the bag so he doesn’t get ran over, doesn’t get his ankle hit or whatever,” Duraggo said. “I thought the runner was out and it would have gave us an extra inning. But that’s the umpire’s call and that’s how it goes.”
With the controversial ending aside, Kingman South’s season was still over and emotions were running high as the squad gathered for one final time.
“With the way they teared up there at the end, it shows they have heart,” Duraggo said. “Plain and simple, these kids have had heart all season long.”
Kingman South no doubt had the will of a champion, but it wasn’t enough to help the offense find their bats. The team mustered just three hits, with two coming from cleanup hitter Duke Smith.
“Duke hit the ball well tonight, he hit it really well,” Duraggo said. “I told him before the game, ‘you’re my No. 4 hitter. I need you to step up tonight.’ He did.”
Smith finished with a RBI double, a triple and scored a run, while Tyler Davison scored Kingman South's other run.
“We struggled with our hitting tonight and that’s not us,” Duraggo said. “We’ve hit well all season long, but it wasn’t there tonight.”
While Kingman South sees its season come to a tough ending, Duraggo didn’t want that to take away from all of its accomplishments.
“They did well this year – they won the Kingman South League,” he said. “I know it hurts them to lose this and not be able to advance farther, but I’ve had a lot of these players for five or six years. I drafted them every year and stuck with them – they’ve been teammates for years. You can tell that it bothered them a little bit, but they’re still great kids.”
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