Another baseball championship is one win away for Desert Ridge.
The Jaguars advanced to the 5A-I title game with a 5-3 win over Gilbert Thursday afternoon at Glendale’s Camelback Ranch Stadium.
Had Desert Ridge lost, a second game between the two schools would have been necessary to determine the Pool A champion.
Desert Ridge will go after its second straight championship at 7 p.m. Saturday, again at Camelback Ranch. The Jaguars won the 5A-II championship last year.
The Jaguars, with 29 wins this season, did it with timely hitting, sterling defense and the gritty pitching of Taylor Kaczmarek.
Kaczmarek earned the victory giving up three runs in five innings of work. He would have gone one more inning had coach Pat Herrera not looked at the pitching chart and noticed Kaczmarek had thrown 106 pitches.
“It felt like 200,” Herrera said, “but he battled.”
Kaczmarek went to a full count in seven of the first 14 batters he faced through three innings. He gave up plenty of hits and walked three batters, but he didn’t allow a run. Gilbert left 10 runners on base and seven were stranded in the first three innings.
“To be honest, I thought he (the home plate umpire) was squeezing me a little bit,” Kaczmarek said. “It didn’t seem like I had it all there today.”
In the first, Gilbert had the bases loaded with two outs, but Stephen Tarpley grounded out to third baseman Travis Flores to end the inning.
In the second, the bases were again loaded, but Tyler Kamtz hit a sharp grounder to Flores who stepped on third base and then threw to first for the double play.
After missing out on a golden scoring opportunity in the first, Gilbert gave up three runs in the bottom of the inning. It was Kaczmarek who did most of the damage with a two-run double in the inning. Kyle Raidy also had an RBI single.
Desert Ridge added another run in the second inning when Scott Hoffman homered off Gilbert starter Colton Thomson. Hoffman added another RBI in the third when he walked with the bases loaded to score Flores.
Gilbert advanced to Thursday’s game through the loser’s bracket after losing to Desert Ridge last Thursday. The Tigers, who count three of their nine losses this season to the Jaguars, then beat Tucson Salpointe to advance to the championship game of Pool A.
Gilbert actually had more hits (9) than the Jaguars (5), but couldn’t get to Kaczmarek until the fifth inning. The Tigers scored all three of their runs in that inning with Rick Rydalch singled home two runs and James Rael hit a sacrifice fly to score another.
Grant Kempton relived Kaczmarek to start the sixth, didn’t allow a hit and retired six straight to end the game.
“That was big for him," Kaczmarek said. “He hasn’t pitched much this season."