Ultimately, Tuesday's quarterfinal game of the Best of the West baseball tournament between Centennial and Sunrise Mountain won't affect either team's playoff chances or seedings.
However, the Mustangs' dominant 13-0 victory over the Coyotes in five innings certainly altered the mood of both coaches.
"We told our kids this morning that the next three games are single elimination, just like the state tournament. We want to play every game with the idea that it's win or go home," Sunrise Mountain coach Eric Gardner said. "Our kids were fired up when we started and so were they. When our kids found our they were playing Centennial, it was a little more exciting."
While Centennial coach Jason Nuttall would concede his team is less experienced and complete than Sunrise Mountain (8-3), that didn't prevent him from delivering a long post-game talk chastising his players for their seeming lack of inspiration.
"All you want is for them is to come out and play hard, and you'd figure after our rivalry in the past with these guys that we would be able to do that. And I don't think that we did that," Nuttall said. "If you get beat by a better team, that's OK. But if you get beat by a better team and you don't give any effort, that's frustrating."
The Coyotes' best chance came in the opening frame, but Centennial (3-9) stranded a runner at third base. From there junior pitcher Aaron Bummer was in control, allowing only four baserunners - all on walks - and striking out six.
Sunrise Mountain picked up runs in every inning, starting with RBI singles from juniors Austin Byler and Drew Wolff. In the second inning the Mustangs built their lead to 5-0 thanks to Bummer's RBI double to the gap, junior Steven Kane's RBI single and Byler's sacrifice fly.
"We know with Crawford, Bummer and Kane that we've got three guys that can throw pretty well," Gardner said. "The bats was the question, and we've been pounding it out a little bit."
Wolff drove in another run in the third inning. Then, after fouling off six pitches, junior Tyler Crawford knocked in two with a single to center field.
A five-run fourth inning capped the Mustangs stampede. Byler hit another sacrifice fly and senior Tyler Mussro and sophomore Tyler Fite drove in runs, but the highlight was junior Shane Johnson's third home run of the day - a two-run shot over the right field fence.
Tuesday morning, Johnson hit two key home runs in a victory against Jenks (Okla.).
"Shane Johnson was the No. 4 hole hitter for the JV team last year. He's swinging it extremely well," Gardner said. "He had three home runs today, including a game-tying home run in the first game, and then he hit a walk-off grand slam. Then he hits a home run here."
Centennial is 1-3 in the tournament, and will play in a consolation game at Mountain Ridge High School Wednesday.The Coyotes have been hit by injuries and hampered by a young pitching staff in the early season.
"The kid that caught today is a freshman, he's the fifth or sixth catcher in our program. We've just had injury after injury." Nuttall said. "We've been through this scenario before. A couple of years back, we started 2-12 and we really responded well. I fully expect that we'll be able to compete and do that again."
Sunrise Mountain is 4-0 in the tournament, and will play the winner of Tuesday's Phoenix Pinnacle-Tulsa Union (Okla.) game on its home field in a semifinal at 1 p.m. Wednesday. If the Mustangs win that game, they'll play in the final 30 minutes later.
"I think we put a lot of stock into it because this is a momentum thing for us to get ready for conference. It gives us a chance to see some kids play. If they're going to play a role later, we're going to find that out," Gardner said. "We take it seriously. Yesterday, we beat Pinnacle 4-3, and I know it doesn't count for power points, but that's a huge game. They threw their (No. 1 starter) and we threw our (top starter) and now we know we can beat a good 5A team."