It wasn't an artistic performance, but Millennium was happy to beat Peoria Centennial, 5-4, on the road Friday, snapping a six-game losing streak, the longest of coach Mike Jacobs' tenure.
"It wasn't pretty but we'll take," Jacobs said. "Mental mistakes hurt us. This late in the season, mental mistakes have to be eliminated."
The Tigers got a gritty pitching performance from senior right-hander Mike Tinucci and some timely hitting to overcome a sub-par defensive effort. The Tigers committed six errors.
"We're making our pitchers have to throw extra pitches," Jacobs said.
The game started well for the Tigers as Sammy Rimer led off with a double to center field. He moved to third on Josh Rojas' single to center and scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Hunter Brock. Rojas eventually scored on a passed ball for a 2-0 lead.
However, Centennial (6-5) answered with two runs of its own in the bottom of the first, aided by Millennium's faulty fielding. Third baseman Gio Lopez made three miscues in the frame, leading to two unearned runs for the Coyotes.
"After the first inning, Mike was at 21 pitches, but he should have been out of the inning after about six or seven pitches," Jacobs said.
Centennial grabbed a 4-2 lead in the home half of the second.
The Coyotes loaded the bases on a Joe Navarro single, a double by Spencer Bayless and a wild pitch on strike three that allowed Garrett Attig to reach base. A double to right field by Chase Thompson plated two runs.
Taking the lead
That 4-2 lead stood up until the Tigers pushed across three runs in the top of the fourth.
Logan Graves started the rally by drawing a one-out walk. After Lopez struck out, Rimer doubled home a run and he scored on Rojas' single. Tinucci then helped himself by delivering a run-scoring single, giving Millennium a 5-4 lead.
"That felt pretty good," Tinucci said of driving in the eventual winning run. "I was real enthused. I had a lot of adrenaline.
"It was a fastball, a little elevated. I like the ball high. If it is already up, I don't have to get under it as much."
While taking the lead was the good news, the Tigers received some bad news when shortstop A.J. Diggs had to be removed from the game with an injury after grounding out to shortstop to end the frame. He was scheduled to be evaluated Monday.
"A.J.'s a big momentum guy for us, Jacobs said.
However, there was an upside to Diggs' departure. Jacob Iwanylo was inserted into the lineup at second base and Rojas shifted to shortstop.
Iwanylo came up with a key play in the bottom of the fifth to preserve the Tigers' lead.
Centennial loaded the bases with one out in the fifth on an error, a walk and hit batsman. Drew Navarro then hit a ball that Iwanylo turned into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play, ending the threat.
"The double play Jacob Iwanylo rolled up was huge," Jacobs said. "That kind of play has earned him some more playing time, especially with A.J. injured."
Millennium threatened in the top of the sixth but left the bases loaded.
Centennial put two runners on with one out in the bottom of the inning but Tinucci extricated himself from the jam by getting Dylan Begley to pop out to third and Mark Lange to ground out to third.
Tinucci retired the side in order, on six pitches, in the bottom of the seventh to seal the win.
"They got a little aggressive in the seventh inning and Mike only had to throw six pitches," Jacobs said.
Three Tigers had two hits apiece -Rimer, Rojas and Tinucci. Both of Rimer's knocks were doubles.
Brock, Rimer, Rojas and Tinucci drove in runs.
"We swung the bats well," Jacobs said. "I was pleased with our approach at the plate. Rimer led off with a double and that got us started."
Tinucci had to work hard for the complete-game victory, throwing 107 pitches. He gave up four runs, two earned, on eight hits while striking out one and walking one.
"I felt pretty good," Tinucci said. "At times, I was a little drained. I started out rocky but settled down. I stuck pretty much with my fastball and curveball. I threw a lot of changeups to the left-handed batters to keep them off stride. My command was good."
"We got a great pitching performance by Tinucci," Jacobs said. "He pitched himself out of some tough innings. Mike is very mature.
"He was around the zone. He made them swing the bats. You look at a seven-inning game with 15 pitches an inning, that's 105 pitches. So, he was right where we wanted him."
The euphoria of snapping the losing streak was short-lived as the Tigers (4-7, 4-1 in power-points games) lost at Phoenix Sunnyslope, 11-7, Saturday in the opening round of the Best of the West Tournament.
Millennium allowed a 7-5 lead after two innings slip away against the Vikings. Sunnyslope broke a 7-7 tie with a run in the bottom of the fourth and added three insurance runs in the fifth to secure the win.
Rojas had three of the Tigers' eight hits, including a double. He drove in two runs and scored two. Rimmer added two hits with an RBI and two runs scored.
Zach Ronan drew the starting assignment, going 1 2/3 innings and surrendering five runs, four earned, on six hits. He walked one and struck out one.
Johnny Abney was tagged with the loss after pitching two innings, giving up four runs, three earned, on six hits. He fanned lone.
Millennium was scheduled to play Fort Collins, Colo., early Monday afternoon and Glendale Mountain Ridge later in the day in the tournament. The results were unavailable to press time.
The Tigers resume playing power-points games at 3:45 p.m. March 27, hosting Westview.
Mike Russo can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.