E.V. coaches stick with aces in tournaments - East Valley Tribune: VarsityXtra

E.V. coaches stick with aces in tournaments

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Posted: Wednesday, May 5, 2010 1:11 pm | Updated: 3:37 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Clearly, East Valley baseball coaches have no interest in tempting the baseball gods.

Regardless of the matchup, the future schedule or any other measurable, local managers do not feel comfortable having their best pitcher sit in the opening round of the state tournament.

Mountain Pointe scored five runs in the first three innings and cruised to a 12-2 victory over Laveen Cesar Chavez, when the 10-run mercy rule was invoked in the sixth inning.

With a high-powered offense and a second-round matchup against either Hamilton or Brophy looming, Mountain Pointe coach Brandon Buck could have sat ace Kevin Cron or, after the hot start, pulled him early.

Instead, Cron went the distance to secure the victory.

"I did (think about sitting Cron), but not for very long," Buck said. "I’m not a guy that sits back and waits to throw my ace."

It was a common refrain.

The majority of teams threw their No. 1 guy on Saturday in the state tournament opener.

"We didn’t mess with it," Desert Ridge coach Pat Herrera said. "The first round is so scary."

Hamilton faced dangerous Brophy in the first round, so it was an easy decision for Mike Woods. He has been the coach of the Huskies for 11 years and has always thrown his top guy in the first game.

"Since we’ve been here, I’ve never been in a situation where I thought I had an easy matchup and could afford to sit a staff ace," Woods said. "I don’t think I would have done it anyway."

The tournament’s schedule is one reason to start your ace in the first round. If a team wins the first two games, its third game will be a week after the opener, which gives that starter regular rest.

Keep advancing, and the championship game is one week after that.

If everything goes perfectly, two pitchers are all that’s needed to make a run through the tournament, and starting the best pitcher in the first game maximizes his usage.

"Mesquite did it (in 2008)," Red Mountain coach Jason Grantham said. "They got through the winner’s bracket with two pitchers. You can’t get through with just one, but two guys carried them through the playoffs."

Red Mountain was a team that started their No. 2 hurler, but it wasn’t strategic. Ace Justin Hunsaker threw last Tuesday as the Mountain Lions battled for a region championship.

Instead of starting him, Grantham went with Cole Gleason.

"If we really needed to, we could have brought Justin back on short rest," Hunsaker said. "But (starting Gleason) was our best opportunity."

But if the situation was different and everything was equal, would he start a No. 2 to have his ace ready for a tougher matchup in the second round?

"Goodness, no," Grantham said. "You do that too often and you’re going to get burned. We’re going with the approach that all hands are on-deck, and then we’ll worry about the next game when it gets here."

Some coaches said they would consider pulling an elite pitcher early if the game was already in hand to save him for later in the tournament.

But having a game wrapped up is subjective, and the last thing a coach wants to do is blow the present game for a better shot at a future one.

"I’d assure the win," Woods said. "In my history, I haven’t played too many games that (are guaranteed victories). You can’t ride one guy in the tournament. You’re going to get exposed one day. You’ve got to trust that the other kids will come through."

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[Stats Courtesy of MaxPreps]