If you knew a pitcher on a 13th-seeded team had stymied one of the most potent offenses in 5A Division II last week would face the same Pinnacle bats after one day of rest with the season on the line, you might figure the law of (batting) averages would have its final say.
Then again, you don’t know Marcos de Niza ace Garrett Taggart.
Fighting through arm fatigue, near-100-degree heat and a lineup in survival mode seeking revenge, the lefty threw a complete game in the Padres' 8-4 win on Saturday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
The Padres move within one game - Tuesday night against either Horizon or Ironwood Ridge at Phoenix Municipal - of the 5A-II semifinals.
Taggart worked out of jams throughout his seven innings. In the fourth through sixth innings alone, he stranded a combined six Pinnacle runners.
"He pitched lights out and has been a workhorse all year," Padres coach Felipe Becerra said.
It was hardly a picnic. After his offense provided two insurance runs to bump the Marcos' lead to 8-4 - which included a run-scoring hit from shortstop Daniel Rodriguez - Taggart toed the rubber in the bottom of the seventh.
That’s when he felt his arm tire.
He walked the bases loaded which brought the tying run to the plate, and with all the factors weighing down on him with just one out to go, collapse seemed inevitable.
"I was getting tired," Taggart said. "I just needed to re-focus."
That’s when Becerra made a visit to the mound.
"I just told him one more out is all we need and what a memory it would be," Becerra said. "I told him to dig down deep and compete."
The adrenaline kicked in.
Taggart balanced locations and mixed in curveballs during all counts to that point, but went to the heater and mustered a final fastball that wasn’t touched.
"He showed his character," Becerra said. "He was all heart."
Down 3-1 in the top of the fourth, the Padres scored three runs to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Jesse Brooks’ single was followed by a screamer for a two-run home run from Rodriguez that eked over the left-field wall. Two outfield miscues aided in Marcos de Niza’s third run, driven in by Kyle Becerra.
In the fifth, designated hitter Jesse Brooks nearly made roadkill of a curveball when he crushed it beyond the billboards in left field, into the prairie dog habitat in front Van Buren Street for a 6-3 lead.
Pinnacle scored two runs in the first with the help of a triple from designated hitter Connor Wessel. Pioneers’ center-fielder Jake Peevyhouse had an RBI single in the second while Alex Real hit a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right-center in the fifth.
Pinnacle finished the year with 22 wins.