Sports Stories

Neither rain, a field full of mud, a sixth seed nor three games Thursday, Sept. 1, would keep A Day in the West from its 15th Sedona Adult Softball League championship.

The rest of the night’s action, presented by the Sedona Parks and Recreation department, proved to be just a formality following a five-run sixth inning that blew away the Balloonatics, 12-3.

“We let the play on the field speak for us,” was all Pedro Ortega Sr., head coach of A Day in the West, said after being handed the trophy for his 15th title.

The much-anticipated rematch in the championship game between Balloonatics head coach Larry Perry and A Day in the West pitcher Jason Stewart, both of whom were suspended two games for fighting during their previous meeting July 14, quickly turned into a runaway.

“When that happened, we were like, that ain’t [us],” said fifth-year outfielder Tony Franklin. “It was a focal point, when I was talking, to make sure, even when guys joked around with the umpires or each other, to lock it up and play ball.”

Franklin would even caution Stewart not to turn around and talk to his shortstop.

“The last skirmish that happened was just part of the game,” said Stewart, in his seventh year with the club. “We got heated against each other, but it wasn’t a vendetta so much as a focus.”

Both Franklin and Stewart considered late-season losses afterward, which dropped A Day in the West to the sixth seed with five losses, to be flukes.

“We lost some close games and played some bad games,” Stewart said. “We know how to engage to losses.”

A four-run first inning was sparked by catcher J.P. Laws’ double, which scored Stewart. After another three runs widened the gap to 7-1, Stewart allowed just former Sedona Red Rock High School outfielder Justice Keane and first baseman Jeff Lynch to cross the plate for the Balloonatics.

“The last time, we didn’t hit against these guys,” outfielder Tony Franklin said. “We didn’t get the easy outs we were supposed to. This time, we did just that.”

But Franklin, Ortega and Stewart all credited the win to their team defense, which, thanks in part to three double plays, held the Balloonatics to single runs in the third, fourth and sixth innings.

“Look at the statistics,” Franklin said. “I always say, if you can get at least two double plays, and the pitcher gets two outs, you’re probably going to win that ball game.

“When you get three double plays, you’re sucking the life out of a team.”

Steady rains which began an hour before the start of the first game in the league’s one-night postseason tournament saturated both fields at Posse Grounds Park, leaving both infields slippery and muddy and the Upper Field’s shortstop and third-base line areas underwater.

“That’s how the game went so fast,” outfielder Tony Franklin said. “Get a couple runs; get them out — one, two, three.

“Because of the weight of the ball and the type of bats we’re using, usually, when you’re losing a game, you’re just not getting the easy ones.”

Nevertheless, as the next-to-last playoff seed, Ortega’s 10 teammates had to slog steadily through two wins on the muddy bog. They did, allowing only two runs while scoring 13 in back-to-back games.

“We played those last two games for fun,” Franklin said. “Everybody out here told Jason, just one out: Everybody get that one easy out.”

For more photos and all Sedona Adult Softball League playoff scores, please see the Wednesday, Sept. 7, issue of the Sedona Red Rock News.