Coach Phil Lamoreaux didn't expect his girls to get this far, but he's happy to go along for the ride.
"I think it’s awesome. These girls have worked really, really hard over the last year," said Lamoreaux, who just coached the Mesa-based Four Peaks Junior League softball team to its first-ever Junior League Softball World Series appearance.
"I never thought we’d be going to the World Series. They’re just playing really, really well right now, and it’s showing. For me, it’s very rewarding."
The Four Peaks Junior League team is comprised of 13- and 14-year-old girls. The team won the District 7 and state tournaments to advance to the JLSB West Regional finals in Tucson, and went on to defeat a Junior League club from Cedar City, Utah by a score of 15-9 on Wednesday to punch its ticket to the World Series in Kirkland, Washington. Its first World Series game will take place Sunday at 9 a.m. and will be televised on ESPN+.
The team is one of many softball and baseball teams under the Four Peaks Little League umbrella. The league is headed by former MLB pitcher Russ Ortiz, a Mesa resident who played for the Arizona Diamondbacks from 2005-06.
"This is a big deal for us," said Ortiz, who's wrapping up his first year as league president. "I love to see the league in the area we’re in be a great, great league. What we did this year as a league is set out to make sure our coaches trained and taught the kids both baseball and softball as best they can to make them better. They did it in a fun and creative way, and created bigger and better competition. I think we did a good job with that."
Lamoreaux, who has coached some of his players for five-plus years, said his girls take a team-first approach.
"These girls, they all help each other out. It’s like a big family," he said. "They work hard together. They have each other’s back. There’s no girl that has to be the star; they all cheer for each other."
The JLSB World Series is comprised of 10 teams -- six from across the United States, along with four international clubs.
"If this team plays their best, I think we’re competitive with most everybody," Lamoreaux said about his team's chances to take home a World Series title. "We have a lot of girls that can hit the ball really hard. I think if we go have a good time and see if we can win a few games, I think that’ll be a great experience for the girls."
But regardless of what happens in Washington, Ortiz said the Junior League team's trip to the World Series means a lot to Four Peaks.
"This is our first experience, and it hopefully won’t be our last," he said. "Hopefully this will be something that really propels this league forward."