by Tanner Puckett
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Playmakers capped an undefeated run through Session 1 of the Arizona Spring Championships on Sunday, topping the 13u division with a victory over the top seed Militia, 10-6.
The Playmakers' bats struck early and often against the Militia, opening the scoring with two runs in the top of the second inning on Evan Yau’s two-out triple.
“We came in solid and came out with a dub,” Yau said when asked about his team’s performance against the Militia.
Yau accounted for four of the team’s RBI, also bringing in runs on a single in the fourth and a groundout in the sixth.
The Militia (Murrieta, CA) touted the most productive offense of the division through pool play, with 44 runs scored in three games. Their +16 run differential was tied for first. The Playmakers (Hayward, CA) flexed quality pitching that was able to keep the Militia off the scoreboard until the fifth inning and didn’t allow a hit until the third.
Zayden Zataray, the hero of the Playmakers’ last pool game in which he stole home to secure a walk-off victory, was on the mound for those first five innings. He gave up just five hits and one earned run while striking out three and hitting three batters.
Playmakers head coach AJ Aguon said, if the team was in the championship, the plan was to have Zataray on the mound.
“I told him on the first day, ‘Be prepared for Sunday,’” Aguon said.
Zataray’s teammate Yash Gupta said the team felt the same way.
“He’s really good in those pressure situations so we knew he was going to come out and throw his best stuff, and we all trusted him,” Gupta said.
Zataray was efficient in his approach, throwing 74 pitches over those five innings, with 49 going for strikes. He said confidence in his defense was important.
“They played great behind me, great defense,” Zataray said. All 12 of Zataray’s outs that weren’t strikeouts were recorded on ground balls.
The Militia looked to be mounting a comeback in the sixth inning after Yau came on to pitch in relief. With two outs the Militia strung together five consecutive hits, capped by a three-run inside-the-park home run by Aidrian Carrillo.
In all, they had tallied five runs in the sixth to reduced the Playmakers’ lead to 8-6.
The rally looked to continue after the next two plate appearances turned into full-count walks. Yash Gupta entered the game and got an important ground ball out after walking the bases loaded.
“I was just trying to throw strikes and make sure I didn’t leave any balls high so they didn’t get anything good to hit,” he said.
Those two batters were the only ones Gupta faced, but Aguon said that’s the role Gupta has on the Playmakers.
“That’s one of our good closer guys,” he said.
He continued to make a mark, ripping a triple into the outfield in the top of the seventh and bringing two important insurance runs home.
“I was sitting fastball because I hadn’t really seen his curveball,” Gupta said. “Just get something through the infield, make sure one run scores, and I happened to get a good hit.”
It was exactly what Aguon had hoped to see from his lineup after a rough half-inning.
“I told them we need to get on the board, get some insurance runs, close it out,” he said.
The Playmakers were able to squash a potential Militia rally in the bottom of the seventh when a 7-4 double play set up a strikeout to end the game.
Coach Aguon said he thought his team played really well when asked about their undefeated run.
“They gave me a lot of effort all five games,” he said. “Didn’t stop until the game was called by blue (the umpire).”