Zach Davies was a once-in-a-decade pitcher for the Mesquite baseball team, graduating last season after a spectacular prep career.
But while the Baltimore Orioles farmhand continues to excel in the minor leagues, the teammates he left behind are faring just fine.
Another dynamite pitching performance — this one by Spencer Applebach — lifted the Wildcats to a 4-1 win over Sandra Day O’Connor in the loser’s bracket semifinals of the Division I baseball tournament on Thursday at Camelback Ranch in Glendale.
Sixth-seeded Mesquite will face No. 4 Brophy on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, with the winner moving on to play No. 2 Chaparral for the state championship.
Applebach threw a complete game six-hitter, striking out seven and allowing the one run in the sixth inning. On Tuesday, John Ferrendelli threw a complete game in a 7-3 win over Hamilton.
“We came in (to the season) with a chip on our shoulder,” Applebach said. “Everyone was saying, ‘Oh, you don’t have Davies.’ We knew we weren’t going to have that rock leading the staff, and we knew we were all going to have to step up.”
O’Connor handed Mesquite its only loss of the tournament thus far, but the Wildcats returned the favor in this elimination game.
Applebach helped his own cause with an RBI single in a two-run first inning, and Ferrendelli pushed the lead to 3-0 in the second by knocking in Seth Fretheim with a single. The lead was 4-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning when O’Connor threatened for one of the few times all game.
Noah Kelly drove in Welsey Sutton to bring the tying run to the plate with two outs, but cleanup hitter Brendon Erickson grounded out to end the threat.
Mesquite has now won four straight elimination games and is one away from playing for the state title. Coach Jeff Holland said his team has never panicked despite playing in some close contests.
“With the new bats you’re going to be in low-scoring games,” he said. “The team that’s mentally tough, the one that makes the routine plays, that team is going to win. We stressed that the whole season.”
Fretheim finished the game 1-for-3 with a walk, two stolen bases and two runs scored. Ferrendelli went 2-for-4 with an RBI.