Phoenix Greenway "nailed it'' with a 4-0 victory over Tucson Sahuaro in the Division II winner’s bracket baseball game on Thursday night (May 15) at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix.
The top-seeded Demons advance to Tuesday’s (May 20) 4:30 p.m. state championship game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick in Scottsdale. They will have a rematch with either second-seeded Sahuaro or No. 4 Nogales, who will meet in an elimination game on Saturday (May 17) at 6:30 p.m. at Maryvale.
Thursday night’s story line began to develop in the bottom of the first inning.
Greenway coach Matt Denny, coaching third base, sent baserunner Payton Squier home from second base on a single to left field by Sean Wagner. Denny figured it was going to be a close game.
Squier reached under the tag by catcher Jake Northrup, touched the plate and was ruled safe by the length of a fingernail.
Greenway led 1-0 and received a scare in the top of the second when senior star pitcher Tyler Frost tried to flag down a hard-hit ball back to the mound by Hunter Green. Frost knocked the ball down, retrieved it and threw Green out.
But Frost was shaking his pitching hand (right) after the play. Denny and a team trainer went out and saw the middle finger on Frost’s hand was bleeding quite a bit from the nail. After being treated, Frost remained in the game and went the rest of the way, allowing six hits.
While the trainer worked on Frost, Denny admitted he thought about pulling the pitcher and even had someone start to warm up in the bullpen.
“But when I saw the look on his (Frost’s) face, I knew he was not going to want to come out,’’ Denny said.
Greenway finally was able to get some breathing room against Sahuaro left-hander Alex Verdugo by scoring three runs in the fifth on a wild pitch and a two-run double down the right-field line by Ben Aklinski.
“He (Aklinski) stayed with the pitch,’’ Denny said.
The coach knew that sending Squier home in the first would be a risk, because Frost and Verdugo would be involved in a tight battle.
“I told the guys before the game that we were going to be aggressive,’’ Denny said.
Verdugo lasted 4 1/3 innings and was frustrated at times for what many Sahuaro fans felt was a tight strike zone.
With two outs in the third, Verdugo thought he had an inning-ending strikeout but did not get the call, jumping up slightly. The plate umpire moved to the side of the plate and briefly scolded him. The Greenway hitter walked, followed by a single and another walk to load the bases. But Verdugo finally got his strikeout and Greenway could not increase its lead.