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D.E. boosts playoff hopes with sweep of A.F.
Submitted by Shane McOwen on Wed, 04/19/2017 - 12:00am
Owls need strong finish to get back in postseason contention
Desert Edge baseball greatly improved its chance of qualifying for the 5A state playoffs at the expense of district rival Agua Fria, sweeping the Owls in the teams’ two-game series.
The Scorpions prevailed by one run in each game, the first at home on April 11, 3-2 in extra innings, and the second at Agua Fria April 13, 4-3.
Desert Edge scored a walk-off win thanks to a run in the bottom of the eighth in the first meeting, and took the lead for good in the second thanks to outstanding awareness on the base paths.
Desert Edge shortstop Danny Kamins laid down a bunt along the right side of the infield with runners on second and third and one out. The squeeze play worked to perfection, with the bunt being placed where Agua Fria couldn’t make a play to get Kamins at first or Brett Miller going home from third base. Pinch runner Roman Yerian took advantage during the aftermath of the initial action, and continued around third to score a second run, giving Desert Edge a 4-2 lead on a play that never left the infield.
“In practice, these guys work on it,” Desert Edge coach Sean McCorry said. “It’s a play we have and they did a great job on it. That was our third and fourth run; huge, huge. “The bunter at the plate, Danny, that was a great bunt. They know in these kind of games, you need to do stuff like that.”
The second run proved costly, as Agua Fria was only able to add one more in the contest. Owls coach Marcos Garcia said the team has been plagued by small moments in close games that end up making the difference in the final score.
“We’re talking about baseball awareness,” Garcia said of the bunt play. “That comes with experience. That’s one thing we don’t have a whole lot of right now. We’ve just been hurting on little things like that.”
Both teams benefit from strong pitching performances, with the tone set by Desert Edge starter Zae Martin and Agua Fria starter Antonio Brito.
Martin went 4.1 innings, giving up two runs and five hits. He struck out six, walked one and hit three batters.
“That’s what we’ve been talking about all year is to throw strikes and play defense. We can’t defend against a walk,” McCorry said. “Zae, he struggled in the beginning of the year, but he’s new to pitching. He started getting a feel for throwing the ball in the zone more and getting [good] contact.”
Senior Matt Chavez pitched the final 2.2 innings, shutting the Owls’ offense down to close the game.
“Chavez, that guy just competes,” McCorry said. “He’s a little funky, he’s got a good slider, but he gets after it. He’s not afraid.”
Brito went five innings, giving up four runs on five hits, while hitting two batters. He struck out eight and walked one. Ramon Gonzalez and Jose Urbina each threw an inning of shutout ball.
“We pitched well. Overall, we played pretty good defense, [but] they outplayed us,” Garcia said.
The two wins pushed Desert Edge’s winning streak to six games, and the Scorpions remain undefeated in April. The Scorpions are the No.14 seed in 5A, and trail only Verrado in the region standings.
McCorry said the team is trying not to get ahead of itself, taking in each game as it comes.
“Like I told the guys, they know. We have practice tomorrow and practice Monday, and then we play Tuesday, and we’re stopping right there,” McCorry said. “Our focus is Tuesday and we’ll see where we’re at when it’s all done. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to win games, because we know if you win games, you have a shot. We haven’t been [to the playoffs] since I’ve been here, and these guys deserve it. They work hard.”
Desert Edge will have a home-and-home series against Phoenix Barry Goldwater before wrapping the season up with a series against its biggest rival, and the state’s No. 1 team in 5A, Verrado. The Vipers are 13-1 in power-points games this season.
“We’ve got a lot of seniors and great leadership,” McCorry said. “The young guys have bought in. It’s a pretty fun group.”
The Owls are running out of time to make a push for the playoffs, Garcia said. Agua Fria is four spots out of the top-24, but has lost four games in a row.
“It’s heartbreaking. We needed this game tonight,” Garcia said. “The kids are playing hard. They’re playing good teams right now, and every little mistake counts. It almost feels that we’ve had one bad inning where they hurt us. That’s what’s killing us right now.”
Agua Fria is 7-7 in power-points games, and will need to finish above .500 if the team wants to continue the season. It might need some help from the teams around it, too, Garcia said.
“There’s a slight chance we still make it,” Garcia said. “Right now, [we’ll] need a two-point-plus strength of schedule and two games over .500 to have a shot, that’s my guess. I didn’t want it to depend on someone else. We needed to control our own destiny and [now] just have to go out and keep doing what we’re doing, keep playing hard, keep putting on pressure and sooner or later, the other team is going to buckle.”
The Owls’ remaining games are against Verrado, No. 1, and Lake Havasu, No. 13.
“The next four games are big power-point games,” Garcia said. “A couple of wins and we’ll be right back.”
Agua Fria played Verrado Tuesday, the result was unavailable at press time. The Owls finish the Verrado series at 6 p.m. Thursday at home, and host Lake Havasu for a double header beginning at 3 p.m. April 24.
Desert Edge faced Barry Goldwater Tuesday. The result was not available at press time. The Scorpions travel to Barry Goldwater for a 3:45 p.m. first pitch Thursday, and play Verrado at 6 p.m. Friday away, and 7 p.m. April 24 at home.
Shane McOwen can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ShaneMcOwen.
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