Mesa Desert Ridge right-hander Jake Barrett was almost perfect on Wednesday night.
During those rare hiccups, his catcher was there to pick him up.
Barrett tossed a three-hit shutout and Russell Vaughan threw out a pair of runners on the base paths as the top-ranked Jaguars (18-3, 1-0) knocked off No. 2 Phoenix Pinnacle 6-0 in a key 5A-II Pima Region baseball game at Desert Ridge.
Barrett struck out 14 batters and didn’t allow a hit after the first two innings. It was Vaughan, though, that saved the day early.
The first two batters of the game reached for Pinnacle (15-4, 2-1), and on a ball in the dirt, leadoff hitter Jake Peevyhouse raced towards third.
Vaughan bolted out of his crouch, picked up the ball and gunned down Peevyhouse for the first out of the inning. It was sorely needed, because T.C. Mark subsequently reached on a walk, which would have loaded the bases with no outs.
Barrett got out of the jam with a pair of strikeouts.
The leadoff hitter reached again in the second inning, but Vaughan threw Alex Real out at second on an attempted steal.
“He picked me up right there,” Barrett said.
Barrett gave up one hit the rest of the way, and no runner got past second base. He struck out seven of the final nine batters.
Desert Ridge coach Pat Herrera said it was Barrett’s best game of the year.
“He got in a good rhythm,” Herrera said.
The lead was just 1-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning. Pinnacle starter Steve Casey was baffling the Desert Ridge hitters, but he seemed to tire in the inning.
The first two batters reached and Steven Bier hit a three-run homer to center field for some breathing room. Herrera said he never considered bunting in that situation.
“Not with Steven,” Herrera said. “He’s our guy. I went up to Steven and said ‘Hey, I’m going to pinch hit a guy to bunt for you.’ He started laughing. It was not even a consideration.”
Travis Flores followed with a two-run shot three batters later.
“That inning was huge,” Herrera said.
It was an important win for Desert Ridge, a team expected to battle with Pinnacle and Scottsdale Horizon for the region title. Those are the top-3 ranked teams in 5A-II power points.
“It boosts our whole team’s confidence up, knowing we’re the best in the region right now,” Barrett said.