Sports & Recreation

Summertime baseball fun in the beautiful land of Salt River. Photo by Kasey Kauakahi

15th Annual D-Backs Intertribal Youth Baseball & Softball Tournament

By Sheila Begay
Au-Authm Action News

Salt River Rattlers

The Salt River Rattlers got off to a good start in the 15th Annual D-Backs Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball & Softball Tournament. Playing in the Single A Division, they beat the Shiprock Buzz, 6-3, at the Luis Gonzalez Field in Tempe on Wednesday, July 10. The next day, the Rattlers continued their winning streak at Matt Mantei Field in Tempe by dominating the Casa Blanca Indians, 10-0.

Unfortunately, they ended that winning streak on their home ballfield in Salt River against the undefeated Chinle Warriors, losing with a score of 2-12. The Warriors went on to play in the Single A Division championship bracket.
—By Tasha Silverhorn,

Salt River Outlawz

The Outlawz played in the Single A Division. On Friday, July 12, they played against the Shiprock Northern Natives at the Salt River Ballfield. The Northern Natives got several hits off the pitcher, and throughout the game the score was 3-0. The Outlaws did their best to make a comeback at the plate, but Natives pitcher Riley Keeto was striking out players. New to the team, Keeto made an impact with his strikeouts and won many fans in the stands. Finally the Outlaws were able to get two runs in, almost catching up to the Northern Natives, who were at four runs. Toward the end of the game, the Outlaws made a few attempts to steal bases and make it home, but the Northern Natives outscored them, 5-2.
—By Richie Corrales,

Salt River Senior Sandlots

Playing in the Single A Division, the Salt River Senior Sandlots were a new group of ballplayers, with only a couple returning to the roster from last year. They didn’t let their amateur skill level keep them from playing the game and having fun.

They got their first win by forfeit from the Naataanii Black team on Wednesday, July 10. The second game would be the team’s first official game in the tournament, going against the New Mexico Firebirds on Thursday, July 11.

Fighting hard against the Firebirds, they continued to try to strike out each player that stepped up to the plate. Unfortunately, the Sandlots were defeated, 0-15.
“This is my second time playing on a baseball team,” said Shady Suniga, who pitched in the first inning of the game. “My favorite part was striking out the boys and running back and forth trying to tag out the other players.”

For their third game, the Sandlots were due to play against the team Native Shadow, but they unexpectedly had to forfeit because of a lack of players. That ended their play in the tournament.

“Thank you to the players for participating on the team. You all do an amazing job, and I am glad to be your coach,” said the head coach for the Sandlots, Thomas Lerma.
—By Tasha Silverhorn,

Salt River Lil’ Nations

“We’re just trying to do what we can with [the players] we have,” said Salt River Lil’ Nations coach Nelson Wood during the team’s first game in the tournament. “We utilized all players, and each got a chance to play every position.”

This being their second year participating as a team, the Lil’ Nations played among 16 teams in the Single A Division Pool Play. They were able to play two games before elimination on Thursday, July 11.

The team had hopes of winning their first game, against the Bears, after a home run by Jeremy Miles to start things off. After falling behind, a striking triple play in the bottom of the fourth inning allowed the Lil’ Nations to make a comeback, gaining three runs.

“The kids were nervous in the batter’s box during the first game, but they started to swing the bats,” Wood said. All together they scored 15 runs in their two games. But with minor setbacks and injuries, the Lil’ Nations fell short of a win both times. They lost to the Bears, 12-8, and again to the Arizona D’Backs, 10-7.

“We lost nearly half the team from last year due to age, [but] we continually showed progress in every game. I am happy with [my team’s] performance and progress throughout the tournament,” Wood said.

For Native youth, he offered this advice: “Don’t be afraid to try something new. Continue to find activities to participate in year-round, and keep active.”
—By Sheila Begay,

Salt River Eagles

The Salt River Eagles team finished the 15th Annual D-Backs Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball & Softball Tournament with a record of 2-1. Winning their first game by one run and losing their second game by one run, the Eagles finished strong against a good Warriors team. Tallying up 10 runs against their foe, the Eagles scored the same amount of runs with their first two games combined.

“I thought our team had a great tournament. We didn’t place, but our boys played some good baseball,” said head coach Eric Barton.

The Eagles’ pitching improved as they collectively averaged seven strike-outs; they had a 5.3 ERA and scored 6.7 runs per game. “I’m proud of the boys, and we are already looking forward to next year. It shows that our program is headed in the right direction,” Barton added.

The Eagles team was made up mainly of players from the varsity Salt River High School team, with a couple of new faces.
—By Dustin Hughes,

Mesa Indians

“We’re [going to] get stronger next year! The boys did good. We’re a young team and they’re still learning,” said Mesa Indians coach Sanford Cooper. “We utilized everyone. We were happy with where we ended up, and we got together to have some fun.”

The Mesa Indians played five games in the scorching triple-digit heat at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Among 15 teams playing in the Double A Baseball Round-Robin, the Mesa Indians had early hopes of making it to the championship bracket.

On Thursday, July 11, the Indians experienced minor setbacks during bat check. Regardless, they dominated on the field, with a 3-5 win over the Kirtland Mariners. They continued on with another 3-5 win against the Chinle Native Sox.

On Friday, July 12, the Indians advanced with a 6-3 win over the Chinle Badd Boys. After making it to the championship bracket, the Indians experienced a devastating 13-6 loss to the Shiprock Angels. Coach Cooper said about the loss to the Angels, “We had minor errors. They got more runs and hits than we did.

Our pitching [improved through previous games]; the boys really stepped up.”
On Saturday, July 13, the Indians played for third place against the WR Royals.

The Indians took home a third-place trophy for their 9-1 domination over the Royals. All-tourney players for the tournament were Elias Delacruz (catcher, shortstop and pitcher) and Zack Joe (pitcher and shortstop).

Regarding the importance of youth sports, Cooper concluded, “A lot of kids drop out after Little League. The tribal members need to work together to keep the kids active. There’s a lot of talent out there.”
—By Sheila Begay,

Top Dawgs

The Top Dawgs baseball team was unable to advance to the championship bracket in the 15th Annual D-Backs Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball & Softball Tournament. In their opening game against the Oklahoma Natives, the Top Dawgs bats were silent as they were unable to put any runs on the board. The final score was 13-0. In their second game, against the Warm Springs Chiefs, the Dawgs pulled ahead early and never looked back. That final score was 12-0.

The final game for the Dawgs was on Friday, July 12, against the Indians. The Dawgs put up a fight and began to come back, but ultimately it was too late.

Coach Marty Bowman said, “Our boys are 18 and 17, and they were hoping to [play] better than this, but they just didn’t come together when they needed to. They had too many errors.”
—By Dustin Hughes,

Indians, the 2013 NABI Baseball Champions

The Indians were the team to beat this year. In previous years in the D-Backs Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball & Softball Tournament, they have come up short, finishing in third place and second place. “It was a bittersweet moment,” said head coach Richard Sepulveda. This year the Indians allowed only nine runs during the whole tournament. That’s an impressive stat, considering they were the only team to compete in three games on Friday, in the merciless Arizona summer temperatures. In the championship game, the Indians pulled away quickly in the first inning, scoring six runs. The final score was 13-2.

“This is a big deal,” said Sepulveda. “There were great coaches and great players that we competed against from all over. There was a lot of great talent. But our boys had great performances.”

One of the boys on the Indians team was the MVP of the tournament, Sevoy Hardy (Navajo), who attends Coronado High School. Other notable players were two Salt River Pima-Maricopa infielders, No. 5 Kaya Hayes and No. 6 Aaron Makil.

The duo recorded no errors and were key factors throughout the tournament, both with batting and on the field.

Sepulveda wants to express his gratitude. “I just want to say thank you to the D-Backs, Tara, and all of the other teams. I commend the parents, coaches and players who had to raise money in order to [travel] here and be a part of this.

Thank you to all of those who supported the Indians. I am very proud of our boys.”
—By Dustin Hughes,

Salt River Player Honors Great-Aunt, a Breast Cancer Survivor

Our grandson Aaron Makil honored his great-aunt Leota Hogan by having a pink baseball bat made with her name inscribed on it. Leota is a breast cancer survivor, and Aaron wanted to show his love for her in this special way. He used the bat for the first time while he was playing in the Arizona Diamondbacks Inter-Tribal Youth Baseball and Softball Tournament at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Leota was able to go to the game, where Aaron surprised her with the bat.

Leota is not normally a crier, but I think she teared up every time he went up to hit with the pink bat.

Every grandchild is special in their own way, and Aaron showed us what type of young man he is and the type of special man he will become. I am very proud and happy for you both.

-By Ester Moyah, Special to Au-Authm Action News

Salt River Native Thunder

Salt River’s Native Thunder softball team consisted of a majority of players from Salt River High School. They made their way to the championship bracket in softball, winning most of their games throughout the invitational. On Friday, July 12, Native Thunder played New Mexico Elite, beating them 10-2 and making their way to the third-place game, where they faced Oklahoma Inter-Tribal. This game was not a good one for Native Thunder, who lost with a score of 23-1. Salt River received third place in the Triple A Softball Division. Their rivals Oklahoma Inter-Tribal played against Gallup Dynamite in the championship, winning with a score of 6-0.
—By Richie Corrales,

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