Sometimes it’s just the way the ball bounces.
Mesa Red Mountain was the beneficiary of a wild pitch and advanced in the loser’s bracket of the 5A-I state baseball tournament Thursday night at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, beating Glendale Mountain Ridge 5-3.
Second-seeded Red Mountain (20-11) faces seventh-seeded Gilbert Highland at 7 p.m. Saturday at Municipal Stadium in another elimination game.
“I know, especially with our team, we’re a damn cardiac team right here,” said Jim Sanchez, who drove in what proved to be the decisive runs. “We always have to get runs. We have great pitching, but we have to get runs.”
Sanchez was in the middle of it all in the bottom of the sixth with the score tied at 2-2. Cole Gleason walked and T.J. Bennett reached on an infield hit. With two out, Mountain Ridge decided to intentionally walk leadoff hitter Dean Espy, a .479 hitter with six home runs and 12 doubles. That brought up Sanchez, no slouch at .364 with 24 runs batted in. He didn’t need to swing, at first.
“That’s happened before, where they walk to get to me,” Sanchez said. “I just try to stay loose, think I am in my backyard hitting off the tee, look for my pitch and be patient.”
Mountain Ridge starter Corey Cole uncorked a wild pitch to allow Gleason to score the go-ahead run and then Sanchez promptly singled to put Red Mountain up 5-2.
Mountain Ridge (16-11) scratched out a run in the top of the seventh before Brandon
Bailey got Cameron Paschke to fly out with a runner on first to end the game.
“We don’t plan it that way, believe me,” Red Mountain coach Henry Faccio said of his team’s third close game in a row in the state tournament.
“You just have hand to our kids, they just hung with it.”
It was not like Red Mountain didn’t have their chances. In the fifth, Espy legged out a double to start the inning and stole third before Cole struck out Sanchez. Derek Mendoza walked but then Cole got Mark Hawkenson looking and punched out Mickey Caldwell to end the threat.
Mountain Ridge had chances as well.
Red Mountain starter Colton Sheley escaped a twoon, one-out fourth by getting pinch-hitter Kevin Lawler to hit into a double play.
Red Mountain reliever Mark Jarrett got into trouble after allowing a double and a walk in the fifth but struck out designated hitter Paschke to end the inning. In the sixth, he walked Aaron Hines to start the inning and, one out later, Brad Williams hit a shot at Caldwell at third. The junior got a glove on it but Williams reached.
However, Jarrett got Cole to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
Red Mountain, surprisingly, is trying to make it through the loser’s bracket after falling to No. 15 Gilbert Mesquite in the first round and then outlasting Desert Vista on Tuesday.