Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior clean-up hitter Christopher Roybal batted .267 (4-15, 2 RBIs) during five post-season games.
By Raymundo Frasquillo
TEMPE – Slightly more than four weeks after the grills in the newly christened “Roy’s Cook Shack” went silent; three teams participating in the 41st Morenci Lions Club Invitational baseball tournament remained in the hunt for a 2019 state title, first-time entrant Washington Kirkland Lake Washington, 19th-time entrant Heber Mogollon, and 41st-time entrant Morenci.
The two Grand Canyon State teams, the 1A Heber Mogollon Mustangs and the 2A Morenci Wildcats, began their final rounds May 13. The No. 2 Mustangs (21-4 overall, 12-2 seeding, 8-0 Central Region for No. 1) faced 1A top-ranked Bagdad (20-4, 14-2, 8-0 West Region for No. 1) at 4 p.m. and the No. 10 Wildcats (20-10, 10-7, 8-4 East Region for No. 3) took on the 2A top-ranked Scottsdale Christian Eagles (24-1-1, 15-1, 7-0 Metro Region for No. 1) at 7 p.m., both in Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Mogollon prevailed in the 11th inning while Morenci succumbed 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Meanwhile, the Evergreen State entrant and champion, the Lake Washington Kangaroos (22-2 overall, 12-0 district for No. 1), were in a must-win district tourney game, winning 2-1 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning May 11, to qualify for the state meet. Their first round opponent was against the District 8 champion Kennewick Kamiakin Braves (20-2, 14-2 Mid-Columbia District) Saturday, May 18 at 1 p.m. They then faced Mount Spokane at 4 p.m. in the second round.
Seven other Lions tourney participants were also in the post-season, the Safford Bulldogs in 3A; and the Thatcher Eagles, the Miami Vandals, the Phoenix Christian Cougars, the Pima Roughriders, the Saint Johns Redskins, and the Willcox Cowboys in 2A.
Safford upset the Lakeside Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets twice, 9-6 in the regular season finale April 24 to qualify, and 8-5 as No. 22 versus No. 11 during the play-in round April 30, both at Blue Ridge, before bowing out in the next round 3-1 to No. 2 Queen Creek American Leadership at the Surprise Sports Complex May 3. The Patriots edged the Surprise Paradise Honors Panthers 2-1 in the quarterfinals before the No. 6 Tucson Sabino Sabercats posted an 8-0 semifinal shutout May 11. Sabino faces the No. 4 Sahuarita Mustangs for the title at Mesa Hohokam Stadium May 13 at 4 p.m.
Participating in the 2A play-in round, Pima succumbed 11-1 in five innings to Morenci as the No. 23 seed; No. 19 Willcox was edged 2-1 by No. 14 Scottsdale Prep; and No. 12 Miami ousted No. 21 Goodyear Trivium Prep 12-2 (5 inn.) in the play-in round before falling 10-4 to No. 5 Camp Verde in the first round.
In the first round, Saint Johns was upset 13-2 as the No. 8 seed by No. 9 Flagstaff Northland Prep; No. 4 Thatcher shutout No. 13 Tucson Saint Augustine Catholic 11-0 before falling 7-4 in the quarterfinals to No. 5 Camp Verde; and No. 2 Phoenix Christian eliminated No. 15 Phoenix Country Day School 11-1 (6 inn.) before bowing out 4-2 to No. 10 Morenci in the quarterfinals.
Duncan and Elfrida Valley Union ended No. 17 and No. 18, respectively, in the 1A final rankings. The top 16 teams qualified for the state meet.
The Joseph Morse-coached No. 10 Wildcats (21-10 overall, 4-1 state playoffs) topped No. 7 Benson 4-2 in the first round May 3, and edged No. 2 Phoenix Christian in the quarterfinals and No. 3 Bisbee in the semifinals, both 3-2, to vault into the championship game. The Wildcats won the 1986 title at Diablo Stadium.
Since reaching the semifinal round in 2006 (lost 7-4 to Scottsdale Christian) and 2008 (lost 11-7 to Bisbee), the Wildcats had a 3-18 record and a 17-game losing streak before splitting a double-header with the Pumas earlier this season.
The Wildcats defeated Phoenix Christian in a prior state meet pairing, 5-2 during the 2016 first round at Goodyear.
Morenci has posted one previous winning season under 5th-year head coach Morse (67-66-1, 5-3) in 2016 (15-12-1, 1-1). The Wildcats went 12-13 in 2015, 9-18 in 2017, and 11-12 (0-1) in 2018.
Current athletic director Frank Ogas (15-11 overall, 2-1 state playoffs) guided the Wildcats during the 2006 campaign, Benji Morales (72-56-1, 3-3) from 2007-11, Michael Davis (52-28, 1-2) from 2012-14, and Morse since 2015.
The Wildcats were 1-1 at Diablo Stadium since 2006, losing 11-6 to Tucson Desert Christian during a 2010 play-in game and shutting out San Manuel 9-0 during a 2011 play-in game.
Senior catcher Antonio Gallegos and junior infielder / pitcher Zachary Waltrip were named to the all-tournament team in Morenci. The Wildcats went 2-1 in Francis Waldorf Stadium during the April tourney, downing Valley Union 20-4 in three innings and Willcox 10-2 (6 inn.) before falling 15-1 (5 inn.) to Lake Washington for the title.
“At least we didn’t get shutout,” Morse said.
Morse wore an ear-to-ear smile, seeing the Wildcats play as they were capable of during the month of May, following the end of April play-in game with Pima.
Eagles – 3, Wildcats – 2
A one-out bottom of the seventh Ryan Witte single broke a 2-2 tie, allowing a walked sophomore Drew Zittel to decide the outcome. Game over.
Lead-off batter Gallegos drew a first-inning walk, sophomore Maddux Martinez singled on with one out, senior Christopher Roybal walked and senior Trey Trujillo drove in Gallegos with a bases-loaded walk. Two strikeouts followed.
Scottsdale Christian junior Benjamin Meyerson walked, stole second and was singled in by senior Jacob Peterson to tie 1-1 with two outs. Peterson was thrown out attempting to steal second.
The teams were retired in order during the second inning.
In the third, Martinez walked with one out, Roybal reached first on an error, Trujillo walked to load the bases, and sophomore Lance Morey drilled a sacrifice fly to center field allowing Martinez to score. Senior Matthew Garcia singled to again load the bases, but a ground out halted Morenci’s scoring.
Gallegos singled on with an out in the fourth, but two more strikeouts left him on. The Eagles were retired in order on a double play initiated by Martinez to Waltrip at second to junior Omar Ortega at first.
In the fifth, a two-out fielder’s choice tagged singled Morey. The Eagles tied it 2-2 with Witte’s one-out single, driving in senior Zachary Waslewski who had reached first on an error. Junior Brandon Blair threw out Zittel for the second out, and a ground out recorded the third out.
Morenci went three up and three down in the sixth and the Eagles got two runners on with walks, but the next three batters went down on a strikeout, fly out and strikeout.
Morenci batted .160 (4-25), left eight runners on, and made one error compared to .200 (4-29), four stranded runners, and two errors by Scottsdale Christian.
Morey batted .500 (1-2, sac, RBI) while Gallegos, Martinez, and Garcia went .333 (1-3) apiece. Martinez struck out seven, walked five, and yielded three hits while facing 23 batters during six innings. Waltrip struck out one, walked one and allowed one hit while facing three batters during 1/3 inning of relief.
For the Eagles, Witte batted .667 (2-3, 2 RBIs), Zittel .500 (1-2), and Peterson .333 (1-3, RBI). Meyerson struck out nine, walked five, and yielded a sacrifice plus four hits while facing 25 batters during five innings. Zittel struck out one while facing six batters during two innings of relief.
Wildcats – 3, Pumas – 2
A two-out outfielder error let Roybal reach second base in the seventh inning. Classmate Trujillo doubled him in for the deciding run.
Senior Eduardo Vasquez singled on but senior J.C. Avechuco’s grounder was turned into a double play by Waltrip, stepping on second and throwing to Roybal at first base. Bisbee senior Eddie Alvarez was beaned, junior Dano Lopez singled on and freshman Emiterio Hernandez grounded out to Waltrip to end the game.
The East Region champion Pumas led 1-0 through four innings before successive fifth inning singles by Morey and Garcia put runners on with no outs. A one-out walk loaded the bases, Gallegos’ walk drove in the tying run, and Waltrip’s walk drove in the go-ahead run.
A beaned Hernandez scored on a two-out infielder throwing error to tie the score at 2-2 in the sixth.
Morenci batted .133 (4-30), left six runners on, and made three errors compared to .194 (6-31), six stranded runners, and two errors by Bisbee.
Gallegos (RBI) and Garcia batted .333 (1-3), Trujillo (double, RBI) and Morey .250 (1-4) each, and Waltrip 0-3 (RBI). Senior Desmon Sandoval struck out six, beaned three, and yielded six hits while facing 34 batters during seven innings.
For Bisbee, senior Francisco Urcadez batted .667 (2-3), Avechuco .333 (1-3), and junior David Ballesteros, Vasquez, and Lopez .250 (1-4) apiece. Vasquez struck out five, walked two, and allowed four hits while facing 33 batters during seven innings.
Wildcats – 3, Cougars – 2
Martinez tripled in a walked Waltrip with two outs in the third and Roybal singled him in for a 3-1 advantage.
Phoenix Christian added a run with walked No. 9 batter freshman Adon Alvarado in the seventh, but clean-up batter sophomore Brock Zeller flied out with the bases loaded to end the game. An error and two successive beaned batters loaded the bases.
Roybal singled in walked lead-off batter Gallegos with two outs in the first and Cougars walked junior Nathan Tarver tied the score in the bottom of the frame.
Morenci batted .200 (5-25), left six runners on, and made one error compared to .148 (4-27), seven stranded runners, and no errors by Phoenix Christian.
Roybal batted .667 (2-3, 2 RBIs), Martinez .500 (2-4, triple, RBI), and Waltrip .333 (1-3). Martinez struck out 10, walked one, and four hits while facing 24 batters during six innings. Waltrip walked one and beaned two while facing seven batters during an inning of relief.
For Phoenix Christian, junior Nathan Tarver, senior Jack Doherty, and junior Nate Gulick batted .333 (1-3)apiece, and sophomore Brock Zeller .250 (1-4).
Starter Gulick struck out six, walked two, and allowed three hits while facing 14 batters during three innings.Junior Jacob Krenn struck out one and walked one while facing three batters during an inning. Junior closer Jordan Joselit struck out four, walked two, and allowed two hits while facing 13 batters during three innings.
Wildcats – 4, Bobcats – 2
Blair doubled with one out in the seventh, a two-out Waltrip single drove him in, and Waltrip scored on a wild pitch for a 4-2 advantage. A bases loaded ground out halted the scoring.
Sandoval retired Benson in order on two ground outs and a strike out to end the game.
The Wildcats led 2-0 after two, Trujillo reached first on an error, Garcia singled on, and Gallegos tapped a two-out, 2-0 pitch for a double, scoring both Trujillo and Garcia.
Benson tied it in the sixth. Singled senior Chaz Paquette and beaned junior Dondre Villalobo scored on a two-out throwing error.
Morenci batted .214 (6-28), left eight runners on, and made one error compared to .143 (3-21), two stranded runners, and three errors by Benson.
Blair batted .500 (1-2, double), Gallegos (double, 2 RBIs), Martinez (double), Roybal, and Garcia each .333 (1-3), and Waltrip .250 (1-4, RBI). Sandoval struck out six, beaned two, and yielded three hits while facing 26batters during seven innings.
Senior Ethan Coleman and Paquette batted .500 (1-2) each, and sophomore Mason Fletcher .333 (1-3) for Benson. Senior Jayse Burkett struck out 13, walked one, and allowed six hits while facing 30 batters during six 2/3 innings. Coleman walked two while facing three batters during 1/3 innings of relief.
The No. 2 Mustangs (12-2 seeding, 5.5246 rating) eliminated the No. 15 Fort Thomas Apaches 15-1 in the first round May 3, the No. 7 Anthem Prep Eagles 10-3 in the quarterfinals May 4, and the No. 6 Sells Baboquivari Warriors 6-1 in the semifinals May 10, all at the Goodyear Baseball Complex.
Mogollon batted a combined .338 (25-74, 23 RBIs, 2 doubles, 3 triples, 2 hone runs) and posted a .923 (84-91) fielding average versus its three opponents. Its pitchers struck out 27, walked 17, and allowed 11 hits while facing 83 batters during 19 innings.
Bagdad ousted the No. 16 Teec Nos Pos Red Mesa Redskins 15-1 in the first round, the No. 9 Bullhead City Mohave Accelerated Patriots 19-0 in the quarterfinals, and the No. 4 Superior Panthers 4-3 in the semifinals.
The Mustangs went 2-2 in Morenci and closed the regular season by going 2-0. Mogollon fell 7-2 to 3A Safford in the first round April 11, downed Pima 13-5 in five innings on April 12 and Saint Johns 9-3 in six innings April 13 before falling 9-3 to Miami in the third place game. Senior Trey Tenney and junior Timmy Porter were selected to the all-tourney team.
Through 24 games, the team batted .368 (244-663) with 211 RBIs, 39 doubles, 18 triples, and three home runs. The pitching staff had a combined 2.67 era with 182 strikeouts, 99 walks, 23 beaned batters, and 90 hits while facing 620 batters during 136 1/3 innings.
Tenney batted .459 (28-61, 21 RBIs, 6 doubles, triple) and Porter .507 (37-73, 40 RBIs, 8 doubles, 10 triples, 2 home runs).
Additionally, five other Mustangs also batted over .300, senior Seth Reidhead (.444, 28-63) in 22 games, junior Dallin Rice (.415, 27-65) in 23 games, junior Denin Porter (.395, 30-76) in 24 games, freshman Malakai Porter (.388, 26-67) in 24 games, and sophomore Caden Owens (.343, 23-67) in 23 games.
Owens had a 1.30 era during 27 innings, Porter (2.51, 22 1/3 inn.), Tenney (3.23, 17 1/3 inn.), Rice (2.66, 29 inn.), and Reidhead (2.92, 26 1/3 inn.).