The pendulum of momentum swung back and forth several times in the sixth inning of Thursday’s winners’ bracket baseball game between No. 1 Desert Mountain and No. 2 Tucson.
Tanner Fraley made sure its final shift would stay permanently with the Wolves.
Desert Mountain’s senior outfielder capped a wild stretch of plays with a go-ahead RBI single to left field to lead Desert Mountain to a 5-4 victory over Tucson at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The victory clinches a Division I state championship game berth for the Wolves on Tuesday, as it awaits the winner of the Tucson-Chaparral game on Saturday.
“It was just crazy going up there,” said Fraley of the key at-bat. “It was a lot of pressure. I was just trying to be aggressive straight off the bat and get a nice hit. It ended up coming up good for me.”
Tucson led 4-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth, and that’s where the action really picked up. Ben Rodriguez and Jake McAdams opened the inning with back-to-back singles to to bring up Michael Salazar, who was attempting to sacrifice them forward a base. The bunt was hit in the air toward Tucson pitcher Alex Robles, who had the ball in his glove momentarily until it squirted out.
The result was a bases-loaded, nobody out situation for the Wolves, but again the tide shifted when Jakob Goldfarb grounded into a 1-2-3 double play, leaving runners on second and third with two outs.
Robles then induced a soft grounder off the bat of Lucas Jacobi, but it found no-man’s land up the middle for an infield single. McAdams scored on the play, and Salazar came around to tie the game when Tucson shortstop Tyler Johnson’s throw to first was up the line.
Jacobi advanced to second on that error and Fraley followed with a line drive to left for the winning run. David Greer set down the Badgers in order in the seventh to cap the intense victory.
“Just guys making plays, man,” Desert Mountain coach Brian Stephenson said. “We’ve preached that all year. You get in a tight situation, somebody make a play. We were fortunate tonight to have some guys step up.”
Desert Mountain jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of hits and an error before an out was recorded, but Robles settled down considerably from there. He only allowed one more base hit through the fifth inning, but couldn’t get out of the sixth unscathed.
Few teams this year have slowed down the high-powered Desert Mountain offense, and Stephenson liked the way his team remained focused despite the mid-inning frustrations.
“(Robles) is a tough kid,” Stephenson said. “Just get guys on base and put the ball in play. These are tight situations in a big game. The more times you put the ball in play, the more good things can happen. I was proud of the way we fought today.”
Tucson scored four runs in the third inning but were blanked otherwise.
Greeer finished 2-for-3 with a run scored at the plate and got the save with the perfect inning of relief.
The Wolves last made the title game in 2010, when they lost to Horizon in 5A-II. They will have ace Cody Erickson ready to start on Tuesday.
“It feels incredible (to play for the championship),” Fraley said. “It’s my last game I’m ever going to play, and I’m going to play my hardest, that’s for sure.”