Maybe the hat on Sam Messina’s head is less about uniform attire and more to cover the continuous discoloration of his hair.
The ride continues for the Chaparral baseball team, but not without some more drama. The Firebirds scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to defeat Mountain Pointe, 6-5, to stay alive in the Division I state tournament on Thursday afternoon at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
The two-time defending champions have made a habit of rallying from deficits throughout this postseason and are now a win away from returning to the state championship game. They will face off with the Tucson-Desert Mountain loser on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Tempe Diablo.
“(My hair’s) turning gray,” said Messina, the Chaparral coach. “Grayer by the minute.”
Collin Gabel was the hero, lacing a 2-0 fastball into left field to drive in Andrew Shaps for the go-ahead run. All three Firebirds runs in the sixth inning were unearned after third baseman Michael Weaver threw wide to second base on a potential inning-ending double play ball.
The game went back and forth early until the Pride went ahead 5-3 on a two-run triple in the bottom of the fourth by Weaver. Jorge Carrazco settled down on the mound in the middle innings and Mountain Pointe seemed on its way to the victory.
Chaparral right-hander Michael Diamond got a double play to extinguish a two-on, one-out threat from the Pride in the top of the sixth, which set up the rally in the bottom of the frame.
The Pride scored five runs but stranded nine runners, including five at third base.
“Baseball sounds simple — you get them on, you get them over, you get them in, but... you’re not going to score them 100 percent of the time,” Mountain Pointe coach Brandon Buck said. “Obviously you’d like to do that.”
Gabel didn’t start the game but entered in the second inning. Messina did not want to elaborate on why he didn’t start, but Gabel made up for lost time once he entered the contest.
He finished the game 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs. In his first at-bat, Gabel tried calling timeout before the first pitch of the at-bat. It wasn’t granted, and he instead drove the pitch into left for an RBI single.
“I realized as the pitcher was starting to throw the ball that obviously the umpire wasn’t going to give it to me,” Gabel said. “He did hang a curveball, so I got a good swing on it.”
Weaver had an impressive game for Mountain Pointe at the plate, finishing 3-for-3 with two doubles, a triple and three RBIs.