By Karl Terry: PNT Managing Editor
For some of the players it will be the third year in a row to participate at a state Little League all-star tournament. For Coach Sammy Villanueva, it’s his fifth consecutive year.
Villanueva is hoping all that experience will serve this year’s Roosevelt County 10-11 year-old all-stars well at the Minor Division tournament that starts this weekend.
The Roosevelt County team heads to Deming today to take part in opening ceremonies of the state tournament before taking the field in the first round of the double-elimination tournament at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Villanueva said he didn’t know yet who his team’s opponent would be, but he knew the draw would have them up against the winner from District 8 in Albuquerque. It was Albuquerque Mile High that banished Roosevelt County to the losers’ bracket in the first round of last year’s tournament. But Roosevelt battled back before falling to Las Vegas in the fourth round.
“Our kids know they’ve got nothing to lose against them (Albuquerque teams),” Villanueva said. “You’ve got to play them sometime, you might as well do it early.”
The coach said this year’s version of All-Stars is pretty similar to last year’s, but he feels like hitting may be a little more consistent.
He said he has a solid lineup of pitchers but no ace. Alex Villanueva and Josh Jimenez will be first on the mound for Roosevelt, backed up by Payton Casey, Anthony Villanueva and Daniel Sanchez.
Assistant coach Clint Walker commends the team for its hard work this year and its grit in holding off a tough Clovis American challenge in the district tournament.
“They’ve got a good work ethic,” Walker said. “They’ve been working their tails off since June 15th to make this happen.”
Walker believes the keys during the tournament will be to focus on getting the ball in play on offense. He said defensively the team needs to be perfect.
“We’re really going to have to go in there and do our thing,” Walker said.
Villanueva said many of the players are in the same grade and he’s hoping that will translate into a good bond for the team.
“Chemistry is probably going to be key for us,” Villanueva said.