After clawing its way back into the game in the top of the sixth inning, Mesa Desert Ridge saw its state championship aspirations fade quickly in the bottom half of that same frame.
Peoria Sunrise Mountain scored nine runs in the sixth to advance to the 5A-II state baseball title game with a 15-5 win Thursday at Surprise Stadium.
“I’m very proud of our guys, they never quit,” Jaguars coach Pat Herrera said, “If we could have gotten out of that inning there was still no doubt in my mind that we would have had another run.”
Trailing 6-0, Desert Ridge’s bats came to life in the sixth. Steven Bier’s triple off the left-center field wall cleared the bases and cut the Mustangs’ (29-3-1) lead in half at 6-3. Jeff Decker came on to pitch for Sunrise Mountain and Travis Flores took one swing to say hello and goodbye.
Flores took Decker’s first pitch out to the left field bullpen for a two-run homer that cut the lead to 6-5.
“When the best pitcher in the state comes in and we hit a home run on the first pitch, we’re pumped up,” Herrera said.
But Sunrise Mountain, the state’s top-seed, responded to invoke the 10-run rule and end Desert Ridge’s season.
The Jaguars (28-8) brought on Ben Veach to pitch in the sixth but he only lasted 1/3 of an inning before giving up three hits and three runs. Two of those came on a miscue where a misplayed ball rolled to the wall.
Ethan Chavez took the hill to try and stop the bleeding, but he gave up a pair of RBI singles, walked a batter and hit another one before leaving with the Jaguars down 11-5.
With Zach Odom on the mound with the bases full, Decker rapped a single that brought in two more runs.
“Our pitching staff was spent and I just didn’t make the right call on some of the guys,” Herrera said. “Our team has fought all year. You don’t win 28 games without being talented and being pretty tough.”