Desert Ridge swings the bat about as well as any team around, but on Thursday night, the Jaguars found an equal in John Paul II.
John Paul II, a school out of Corpus Christi, Texas, that loves coming to the Valley to play in this tournament, smashed four long home runs and held off a couple of Desert Ridge rallies to post a 13-8 win and take the title of the annual Highland Invitational at Highland High School.
Desert Ridge (12-3) trailed 5-0 after a half-inning and 8-3 after 2 1/2 innings as John Paul II collected a pair of three-run homers from Kyle Mungia to build its lead.
In the bottom of the third, Desert Ridge rolled out five runs to tie the contest at 8-8, taking advantage of a couple walks, an error and RBI hits from D.W. Warner and Travis Flores. Flores, the Jaguars’ most prestigious power hitter, hit a two-run homer earlier in the game to help Desert Ridge begin its comeback.
But Flores was also surrendering the long ball Thursday, giving up both Mungia homers. He also gave up a tie-breaking two-run shot to P.J. Martinez that put John Paul II ahead to stay at 10-8 in the top of the fifth.
Nine of John Paul’s 13 hits were extra-base hits. Their home run prowess was capped in the sixth inning by a two-run homer off the bat of Joey Perez.
The key to John Paul’s victory, along with the homer barrage, was the relief pithing of Jose Trevino. Trevino pitched 4 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. He struck out 10, walked one and gave up just two hits after Desert Ridge had tied the score in the bottom of the third.
Desert Ridge advanced to the championship game earlier Thursday in rather unorthodox fashion for the Jaguars. They trailed Highland 2-0 heading to the bottom of the sixth and had been blanked to that point on one single by Highland starter James Farris.
Desert Ridge managed to piece together a seven-run rally by way of two walks, two hit batters, a runner reaching base on a passed ball (on a strikeout) and a pair of two-run singles.
The first and second runs were forced in by a hit batter and walk with the bases loaded. Kyle Raidy’s two-run single snapped the 2-2 tie and Travis Flores followed with a two-run single to make it 6-2.
Flores scored the final run of the rally on a wild pitch. Taylor Kaczmarek, who homered four times on Wednesday in pool play, including three times in one game, went the distance for Desert Ridge in the win over Highland. He fanned six and walked three while scattering seven hits.
Farris struck out 13 in five-plus innings for Highland.
John Paul II reached the title game with a 10-3 win over Perry. Perry rallied from a 3-0 deficit to tie the score at 3-3 after three innings, but Perez hit a three-run homer in the fourth to put the Centurions ahead to stay.
Perez finished with four RBI against the Pumas.