TEMPE — One line drive to shallow center was the difference between hoisting a championship trophy and being named runners-up.
In the Division 2A championship game Monday at Diablo Stadium, Morenci and Scottsdale Christian went into the seventh inning tied, 2-2. Morenci went three up, three down in the top half of the inning.
Scottsdale Christian began the bottom of the seventh with a lead-off walk, followed by a stolen base by Tanner Gibson. Morenci reliever Zack Waltrip struck out the second batter, but Scottsdale Christian’s Ryan Witte made solid contact with the ball, sending it to center field and batting in the winning run.
Scottsdale Christian head coach Tim Salmon said, “I don’t know if we were deserving most of the game. Morenci’s pitcher had a fantastic run. They were tough out there. Their starting pitcher was just really strong the whole game. This is a team who really hasn’t had anyone hold us down offensively, and he did a fantastic job. We kind of got into the bullpen, which is tense in playoff runs, and gave our kids a chance, and battled to the end.
“We didn’t play our cleanest game of the year, for sure. We didn’t run the bases and had a few blunders at the plate, but Ryan Witte, our senior who we’ve looked to for leadership all year long, has had big hits at different times throughout the year and had big hits tonight to drive in Tanner Gibson, another senior who’s pretty much been on the shelf all year with a couple injuries from football. He was able to run for us. Having him score the winning run was icing on the cake right there.”
Morenci picked up its first run in the top of the first inning off a bases-loaded walk, but Scottsdale Christian pitcher Benjamin Meyerson pitched his way out of further damage with back-to-back strikeouts.
The Eagles tied it up in the bottom of the first off a walk, stolen base and an RBI single. The Wildcats pulled back ahead in the top of the third with a sacrifice fly from Lance Morey, sending Maddux Martinez diving onto home plate.
Scottsdale Christian tied it again in the fifth, capitalizing on Morenci’s lone error of the game.
Morenci head coach Joe Morse said, “They played a heck of a game, played their hearts out. I’m proud of them. There’s nothing more I could want out of them. That’s baseball: One hit and that changes things; that’s the game. They surpassed everyone’s expectations, and they did a great job.”
Waltrip took the loss, giving up one run on one walk. He struck out one. Starter Martinez gave up two runs — one earned — on four hits and five walks. He struck out seven in the no decision.
Tono Gallegos and Martinez led offensively with the one run and one single apiece. Lance Morey and Matt Garcia hit a single each as well, with Morey recording one RBI.
For his seniors, Morse added, “They set the bar high for the upcoming years. They’re a great bunch of guys who are going to do well in the future. They’re hard workers and very dedicated to what they want to do.”
Morenci was the only team to score on Scottsdale Christian in the state tournament, with the Eagles winning by scores of 10-0, 15-0 and 9-0 coming into the title game. The Wildcats were also one of only three teams to hold the Eagles to three runs or less all year.