Photo by Beau Bearden.
KINGMAN – When the Kingman North 9-11 All Stars started practicing for the District 9 Tournament, manager Robert Paulson knew he had a well-rounded and experienced squad. That didn’t guarantee the team could win a championship, but they did exactly that Thursday night with an 11-1 win victory over Kingman South at Southside Park.
“The big thing that we saw as coaches from day one was they really grew together and became a unit – fast,” Paulson said. “That’s hard to do with an all-star team sometimes. For me as a coach and the rest of our coaches, that’s our biggest accomplishment – watching this team group together, become a solid unit, and really work. That’s what carried them through the tournament.”
Even more impressive is the fact one of Kingman North’s biggest contributors, Tayon Kite, was making his first appearance on an all-star squad.
Kite shined on the mound Monday during an 18-0 win over Lake Havasu and then outdid himself Thursday with no earned runs, six strikeouts and one walk in four innings of work.
“Tayon did amazing on the mound,” Paulson said. “He was awesome from the first pitch of the game and he carried us all the way through four innings. I couldn’t ask for any more out of that kid. He showed up and pitched his heart out. His defense worked behind him and we had a couple of really good plays on defense that helped him out. Tayon carried it, but the whole team was just amazing during the entire tournament.”
Kite said his teammates motivated him on the mound, especially second baseman Cannon Cobanovich trying to make him laugh. The friendships he created combined with a championship will be hard to top.
“This was the best experience I’ve ever had,” Tayon said.
While Kite provided the solid pitching, it was Thomas Doxtater who ignited the offense in the third inning with a double that he stretched into a homer due to a couple of Kingman South errors.
That wasn’t the end of the fireworks though. A few more miscues helped Kingman North add to its lead and then Cobanovich put the icing on the cake with a three-run inside-the-park home run for a 9-1 advantage.
“Like Thomas (Doxtater) said the other night, once someone gets a big hit – it just ignites the team and we all staring hitting,” Paulson said. “It’s really great to watch.”
Kingman North put the finishing touches on its championship in the fourth inning – scoring two more runs on miscues to end the game. Doxtater and Izsik Malone score two runs apiece to lead the team, while the bottom half of the lineup combined to account for eight of the 11 runs.
However, Paulson was quick to give praise to Kingman North’s great defensive play.
“From day one, we’ve preached pitching and defense more than hitting,” he said. “We knew we were going to hit, but pitching and defense is where we won this tournament. We gave up three runs in three games. That’s impressive.”
Kingman North isn’t done yet though, as it will have a few weeks to prepare for Arizona's 9-11 State Tournament starting July 12 in Mesa.
“It’s going to be an awesome experience for them,” Paulson said. “I really look forward to seeing them compete. They’re going to be blown away by the level of competition that we’re going to see. It’s going to be a whole lot different than what we just saw, but I think they’re up for the challenge. This is a really good team.”