GOODYEAR — No. 10 Morenci ended No. 3 Bisbee High School’s baseball season Friday night, with a 3-2 extra-inning win in the state semifinals.
It was a pitchers’ duel for the first half of the game, with each team’s ace on the mound. Bisbee’s Eduardo Vasquez started for the Pumas and was pulled in the eighth after reaching the 105-pitch limit for seniors. Meanwhile, Desmond Sandoval took the ball for the Wildcats and pitched the entire game.
“Two great teams played tonight, and we came up short,” said Bisbee head coach Todd Hammett after the game. “That’s the game. Sometimes you come up short.”
Bisbee finally brought home a run in the bottom of the third inning, and both teams were three up, three down in the fourth inning.
Bisbee kept the one-run advantage heading into the fifth inning but watched it slip away due to untimely mistakes. Morenci started the inning, and its rally, with a single. The next batter bunted his way on base. Vasquez picked up the bunt, but his throw to try to catch the lead runner went past the shortstop and into the backup’s glove to put Wildcats runners on first and second with no outs.
Vasquez caught a pop fly for the first out, but then walked the next batter to load the bases. He struggled to find his rhythm after the series of miscues and walked the Morenci batter with the bases loaded to tie the game, 1-1. A third consecutive walk brought home the Wildcats’ second run to give them a one-run edge.
The team from Cochise County showed its grit in the seventh inning. Vasquez knocked the Wildcats down, one-two-three, in the top of the seventh, and the timely hits finally came for Bisbee in the bottom half of the inning.
Emeterio Hernandez was hit by a pitch to start the comeback. Angel Padilla took his place at first as a courtesy runner. Ballesteros stepped into the box with two outs and hit a hard ground ball to left center that the shortstop rushed to throw to first. The toss soared over the first baseman, which allowed Padilla to score from second to tie the game, 2-2, and force extra innings.
In the top of the eighth, Vasquez was pulled due to reaching the pitch limit, and Morenci hit back-to-back doubles to take a 3-2 lead. The Pumas recorded the third out before the Wildcats could do any more damage.
Vasquez hit a single to start the bottom of the eighth and a possible Puma rally, but a double play and a routine ground ball by Manny Amya stranded runners on base and ended the game.
Morenci will face No. 1 Scottsdale Christian for the state championship Monday at Tempe Diablo Stadium, at 7 p.m.