Jerod Aker didn’t make a lot of friends Tuesday, monotonously running his Morenci team through defending a first-and-third, double-steal situation over and over.
“We probably worked on that Tuesday about 50 times. My kids were ready to kill me,” Aker said Friday at Maryvale Baseball Park. “I said, ‘Guys, you never know. At state, little things make all the difference in the world.’ ”
The Wildcats didn’t get it right once Tuesday, but Friday their textbook execution snuffed a fourth-inning Valley Christian double steal that would have tied the game, and Morenci held on for a 2-1 victory in the first round of the 2A state baseball tournament.
In a game dominated by pitching — Morenci’s Adam Dominguez allowed six hits and Trojan Luke Jensen ceded just two — taking advantage of the meager opportunities was the key.
The only chance Jensen and his teammates gave Morenci (19-6) came in the fourth after the Trojans (22-7) had taken a 1-0 lead. Jon-Mikel Rutherford led off with the Wildcats’ first hit of the game. Jensen’s pickoff a moment later should have wiped out Rutherford, but the errant throw allowed him to reach second. Jensen’s next pitch hit Christopher Lopez.
Following a sacrifice bunt, Michael Davis sliced a double down the right-field line, scoring both runners.
“Hats off to those guys for doing what they needed to do in a clutch situation,” said Valley Christian coach Jon Hendrikse. “They certainly did what they had to do to win the game and we didn’t.”
SCOTTSDALE CHRISTIAN 8, SAN MANUEL 7: Last year’s runner-up had to rally from a 6-0 deficit in the third inning and a 7-6 deficit in the seventh to advance from the first round.
The Eagles (21-3) finally tied the score at 6 in the sixth on a double steal but San Manuel went back ahead in the seventh on a sacrifice bunt.
Trailing by one, Scottsdale Christian had to count on the bottom of the order, and it didn’t disappoint. Scott Vetter led off with a double and moved to third when Seth Rutt reached on an error. Rutt stole second, and after a groundout, leadoff hitter Matt Olsen laced two-strike single in front of a diving San Manuel right fielder, scoring both runners for the win.
“We can hit, I know we can hit, it just took a few innings to get it done,” said SCA coach Bill Swift. “It was a good battle, a good game.”
Eric King earned the victory in relief for the Eagles, who will play North Region champion St. Johns at 9 a.m. today. St. Johns needed 11 innings to beat Bisbee 8-7.