T'Dale stars grab a crown - The Explorer: Sports

T'Dale stars grab a crown

9-, 10-year-old girls reach goal

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Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:35 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

The back wall of Thornydale Little League's office holds memories of championships past.

"They hang the banners there," said Jeff Lovato, Thornydale's 9-10-year-old softball All-Stars coach.

It had been 15 years since space had to be made for a new banner, but on July 25, Lovato's team finished an undefeated 11-0 run with a 7-5 victory over Eloy in the title game of the state tournament.

"Thornydale hadn't won a state title since 1994, and a lot of (team members), especially the older girls, wanted to make a change and put a new number on that banner," said Lovato.

On the strength of a complete game by starting pitcher Alyssa Lovato, who allowed two hits, a "key" batting performance from Jazzy Hughes and three-run fourth inning fueled by big hits from Jessie Lujan and Kaylani Felix, Thornydale accomplished its goal.

"Since the beginning of the All-Star season, we said we wanted to take care of district, then take care of state," said Lovato. "It was the direction we focused on from day one."

That focus took Thornydale through some close games on its way to Mesa and the title game, including a 16-15 shootout against San Tan in the second round.

Watching his team overcome more that a few trials is something special Lovato will remember.

"One of the most memorable things is that during a couple games we were down and continued to fight and found a way to win," said Lovato. "This is a fantastic group of kids — they were focused and just kept moving."

The coach pointed to that type of determination and a "receptive mindset," as well as a tough group of pitchers including Hughes, Lovato, Jessica Giacoma and Ilena Santos.

"(The team) had a great run and finished it out strong, just the way they started it," said Lovato.

Next season could look very similar, he believes.

"It's a relatively young team," said Lovato. "Seven of our 12 are eligible to return; now they've got experience on both the district and state levels."

11- and 11/12 year-olds

It was not just the Thornydale softball youngsters making a splash at state in the past few weeks.

The 11-year-old district champion team finished second in Arizona, losing in the first round of the double elimination state tournament before making a run to the championship game, where they were stopped 15-0 by High Desert.

The mixed-age team of 11- and 12-year-old Thornydale All-Stars outscored opponents 112-8 in six games and notched four shutouts on their way to a district championship before losing in the state title game 2-1 to San Tan.

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