Maricopa team wins state in first year


The Maricopa Sharpshooters won the state championship in the Casa Grande Protect Our Nation’s Youth League, also known as the PONY League, in its first year of existence.

The team is holding a celebratory fundraising car wash starting at 9 a.m. Saturday at the AutoZone at 20886 N. John Wayne Parkway.

The Sharpshooters represent Maricopa in the PONY League, playing through the Casa Grande ages 12 and younger system known as the Bronco division. The players competed against teams from Phoenix, Queen Creek and others throughout the Valley.

“It was a really great experience for us,” Sharpshooter head coach Darald Belcher said. “This was our first season and we went out and won state.

“Casa Grande’s (PONY) league started four years ago but this is our first year. Winning for Maricopa in its first year was great.”

After going 6-1 in the regular season, the Sharpshooters swept the playoffs in Scottsdale, beating the Queen Creek Grey 24-16 in pool play. They beat both an Ahwatukee team and Old Scottsdale 18-8 and went on to crush Queen Creek Purple 20-6 for the state championship.

“We’ve got some great ballplayers growing up in Maricopa,” Belcher said.

“The main difference between the PONY League and Little League is we play by Major League Baseball rules,” he said. “Kids can steal bases without waiting for the ball to cross home plate and pitchers can pick off runners.”

The league fields teams in 21 countries and is headquartered in Washington, Pa.

Next up for the Sharpshooters is the Western Zone Championship in Whittier, Calif. July 25 through July 28. A win there puts the Sharpshooters in the PONY League World Series in Los Alamitos, Calif. in August.