Numerous sporting events took place in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and the City of Fountain Hills during the annual Lori Piestewa National Native American Games, held July 15–18. The games are in honor of Army Spc. Lori Piestewa, who was killed during an ambush in Nasiriyah, Iraq, in March 2003. Piestewa became the first Native American woman to die in combat on foreign soil.
The Lori Piestewa National Native American Games come to the Valley every summer and feature competitive events in basketball, baseball, softball, cross country, track and field, volleyball and wrestling.
Little League baseball was the event that had the greatest representation of Community members, with five teams participating: the Salt River Fat Dawgs, Salt River Braves, Salt River Lil Indians, Sandlots and Woodstock.
Salt River Lil Indians got off to a great start during their games, winning 20-0 against Tula River. Throughout the games, the Lil Indians advanced their way to the top with no problem, finishing with an undefeated record in their division.
This was the first year competing in the Piestewa Games for the Salt River Sandlots, a team composed of former T-ball players who are now eligible for Little League. Unfortunately, the new team lost every game.
“I am really proud of my team,” said Sandlot Coach Thomas Lerma. “I encouraged them not to give up and continue to play hard. They all did a good job. I had a fun year, and I hope they come back again next year and continue to play as a team.”
During the first game of the tournament, the Onk-Akimel O’odhams played a very exciting game against Tuba City, taking a four-run lead during the fifth inning.
That would change in the sixth inning, when Tuba City made three home runs, tying the score 10-10. That left the last inning as a tie-breaker.
With Tuba City up to bat, the O’odhams fans were on edge; one player was able to make it to second base, and the next two batters struck out. The player on second advanced to third base, within scoring distance. The next batter hit the ball, but thanks to a fast reaction by the O’odhams pitcher, that batter was the third out.
The first batter for the O’odhams in the tie-breaker was Arnold “Zookie” Thomas.
His first pitch was a ball, then a strike, followed by another ball. On the fourth pitch, Thomas connected to hit a home run, winning the game for the O’odhams 11-10.
“It was exciting!” said Coach Arnold Thomas and Zookie’s dad. “I am happy for him (Zookie). I thought that [Tuba City was] going to score when they were up to bat. They (the Onk-Akimel O’odhams) did a good job at holding him (the player on third) and getting that third out. I am very proud of my team, and I look forward to the next game. If we win or not, we’re just out there to play and have fun.”
Meanwhile, the Fort Defiance Mariners made their way from the loser’s bracket to the championship game, playing against the Lil Indians. The Lil Indians took the lead first, after one of the batters hit a grand slam. The score at the time was 4-0, and it stayed that way until the bottom of the fifth inning, when the Mariners scored two players. Kaya Hayes of the Lil Indians was up to bat and hit a home run as well. The Mariners caught up again, and the crowd grew quiet because the score was 6-5, with Lil Indians ahead by one. The last Mariners batter attempted to hit a runner into home, but the Lil Indians struck him out at the plate, leaving the score at 6-5. The Mariners would have to settle for runner-up to the champions, the Salt River Lil Indians.
Community member Aaron Makil of the Lil Indians received the Power Player Award from the Piestewa Games. “There were a lot of good players on the team that could have received this award,” said Makil. “But I am happy I was chosen.” Makil was one of the pitchers for the Lil Indians.
Rez Boys, Tribe and Prada Softball
The adult division of softball featured four teams with Community-member players: men’s teams Rez Boys and Tribe, the coed Tribe team, and team Prada, a women’s team. All teams made it to the championship games in their respective divisions.
Rez Boys played against Tribe in the men’s championship game, and in the end Tribe won the championship, receiving the gold medal, with Rez Boys receiving the silver. Tribe’s coed team also made gold, and Community member Chalyise Schurz, who was a pitcher for team Prada in the women’s division, took home the gold in the women’s division.
On Friday, July 16, the Salt River Renegades started off the Piestewa Games with confidence and easily beat the Lady Warriors, 60-28. The Renegades went on to play San Carlos the next morning.
Both teams went head-to-head throughout the game, but with the Renegades’ defense lacking, San Carlos was able to take the lead. In the second quarter the Renegades slowly started stepping up the “D,” and eventually got to a five-point lead. They beat San Carlos 57-49, making their way to the semifinals.
“Yesterday (Friday) we came out ready to go; today we weren’t really ready. I don’t know if it was too early in the morning or what, but we didn’t play a whole lot of defense today,” said Renegades Coach Shawn Lytle after the game against San Carlos. “Hopefully we will be ready for the next game to make it to the championship.”
Later that afternoon, the Renegades played against the Ballasticz in the semifinals, beating them and moving on to the championship game, where they did win, defeating team Hardrock 59-51.
Track and Field
Enrique Molina, who is the husband of Community member Mary Chiago, participated in the track and field competition and won four medals: gold in the 50-meter and 100-meter dash, and silver in the 200-meter and 400-meter dash. The 38-year-old has been running for four years and currently works in the Two Waters Round House Café.
2. Rez Boyz
3. Team Falcon
Women’s Softball Tournament
3. The Easy Crew
Little League Baseball
SR Little Indians
Ft. Defiance Mariners
Chinle Bad Boys
Boy’s/Girls Combined 10u Division
1. Flagstaff Natives
3. DS Express
Girl’s 12/11u Division
1. Lady Sparks
2. Lady Guns
3. El Capitan
Boy’s 12u Division
1. Runnin’ Braves
2. Flagstaff AZ Superheroes
3. Whiteriver Sand Devils
Boy’s 13u Division
2. TD Rimrockers
3. Northern Reign
Girl’s 14/13u Division
2. Flagstaff Natives
3. TC Shock
Boy’s 15/14u Division
1. SW Roots
2. Flagstaff Natives
3. Middle Verde Chiefs
Boy’s Jr/16u Division
1. Native Boyz
2. Team Wildcat
3. Kayenta Raiders
Girl’s Open Division
2. Team Hardrock
Women’s A Division
Men’s B Division
1.San Carlos Geronimos
2. O’Odham Ones
3. Red Storm
Men’s A Division
2. All Nations
Girl’s 15 / 16 Division
1. Lady Magic