Naataanii Black claims Single A crown at NABI
By Quentin Jodie
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., July 18, 2013
F or much of the 15th annual D-Backs & Native American Baseball Invitational everything seemed to go flawlessly for the Naataanii Black team.
In pool play action the Kirtland, N.M.-based team simply overpowered their opponent and put up 43 runs while scoring two shutouts.
The Naataanii Black team then opened the Single A bracket play with a 13-0 win over the Tohono O'odham Yankees.
But after those impressive wins, Naataanii faced its stiffest challenge in the semifinals against the San Carlos A's. In that game, Naataanii jumped out to a 4-0 lead before the roles were reversed as the A's made thing a bit interesting.
With a trip to the championship game on the line, Naataanii coach Carlyle Harvey said his team delivered the most complete performance of the tournament with a 5-4 win.
"We knew that Apache team was going to be competitive," Harvey said. "Once they closed the gap we stayed focused and eventually the boys came out on top and played good D."
According to Harvey, the A's had the tying run on second with two outs with Ray Jay Rodriquez striking out the final batter.
"I give them credit, they gave us a good game," Harvey said of the San Carlos team. "We held them on the bottom of the sixth."
And after that emotional win, Harvey was concerned if his team would stay sharp in the next game.
His concerns, however, were put to rest as Naataanii claimed this year's title with a 9-0 win over the Chui Chui Cowboys, a team from the Tohono O'odham Nation reservation.
"The kids did an awesome job and we didn't experience a letdown," Harvey said. "We played hard from start to finish."
Harvey said the highlight of the tournament was the kids coming together and he credited his pitching rotation for winning the tournament.
"We have ten kids that can pitch," he said. "We utilized them from start to finish."
In the championship game, Eric Kelewood went the distance where he gave up two hits while striking out 13 batters in six innings of work.
"He did an awesome game," Harvey said Kelewood. "He pitched a good game, he pitched a shutout. He felt good out there and we felt comfortable with him out there so he finished out."
The soon-to-be Kirtland Middle School seventh grader was tabbed the tournament's most valuable player during the awards ceremony at Chase Field.
"I was trying to get ahead of my counts," Kelewood said, while adding that he was happy that his team came out on top after entering the NABI tournament for four straight years.
The Chui Chui Cowboys, on the other hand, have been playing together for two years and this year they made headways after not making the bracket tournament last year.
"The week we had was amazing," Cowboys coach Amanda Lopez said. "I can't ask any more from my kids. Last year we didn't even make it into the tournament so this year we wanted to make a statement."
Lopez said her team played hard and her proudest moments came during last Friday's action as they won two close games to reach the championship game.
"We were down four to one in our first game and I told them to keep fighting and we won 8 to 4," she said. "We won our next game three to one and I am really proud of them. We played ten teams and I think they held their ground."