A streaky baseball season that included a nine-game losing skid, an 11-game winning streak and a region title concluded in strange fashion Thursday afternoon for Mesa Red Mountain.
A relentless Tucson Salpointe offense rapped out 15 hits and scored in every inning but one in eliminating Red Mountain from the 5A-I state tournament, 9-6, at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Red Mountain (17-14), which trailed 4-0 after 2 1/2 innings, rolled out a six-run third inning, taking the lead and momentum. But the rest of the way it was Salpointe's hitting that pecked away against three Red Mountain pitchers to tie and eventually take the lead for good in the fifth inning. Salpointe faces Phoenix Desert Vista Saturday at 4 p.m. at Phoenix Municipal Stadium in another elimination game.
"The last couple of games we had trouble putting up zeroes," Red Mountain coach Jason Grantham said. "They did a good job scoring runs all day, especially with two outs."
Red Mountain sent 11 batters to the plate in the third for its lone lead of the game, 6-4. Starting pitcher Cole Gleason's two-run double and RBIs from Derek Mendoza, Mickey Caldwell and Ty Grant put Salpointe starter Jacob Hunter on the ropes.
Gleason, however, couldn't secure the lead. He allowed a run in the fourth and two more in the fifth without recording an out as Salpointe regained the lead for good, 7-6, after five. It was the Lancers' No. 3, 4, 5 and 6 hitters - Hunter, Matt Duarte, Joe Serrano and Dan Slania - that did the bulk of the damage. They combined to go 11-for-15 with five RBIs.
Salpointe scored single runs in the sixth and seventh, with both of those runs scoring after there were two outs and no one on. Five of Salpointe's nine runs were scored in that manner. Red Mountain trailed 9-6 heading into its final at-bat but was confident it could rally.
"We had the guys up that we wanted in that situation," Grantham said. "T.J. (Bennett), Derek and Cole."
Bennett opened the inning with a single, but Mendoza hit a sharp bouncer to third that Salpointe turned into a double play. Gleason bounced out to short for the final out.
"This was a special group of seniors," Grantham said. "When we were 6-12 after spring break, these guys managed to come back and rattle off 11 (wins) in a row. They stayed with it through tough times."