Stephen Peck
Mesa CC Legend

Opening Day Baseball. Mesa Community College (MCC) Thunderbird baseball battered the Benedictine College Redhawks on Opening Day for the season-opening series at home. Opening Day had a rough start as the Redhawks had runners in scoring position. The second base umpire saw what he deemed a balk and the runners advanced a base, bringing a man home for the first run of the game. The Thunderbirds were scoreless until the bottom of the fourth when infielder Joshua Brown would cross home plate to tie the game. Mesa put runs on the scoreboard during the middle innings of the game. The Redhawks would put men on base, but could not get them home. T-Bird pitching saved the home opener in those situations.

MCC would win Opening Day, 6-1, and start the season off in the win column and with hope; they can continue their winning momentum throughout the season. “I’m excited about the pitching. They’re throwing strikes and changing speeds. And, the hitters have done a good job with their approach and taking good direction…and that’s what we’ve been working hard on. So, they’re really trying to do what we ask them to do.”, said Tony Cirelli, MCC Baseball coach. The Thunderbirds have been in the playoffs since the 14’ season, ultimately clinching the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) DII National Championship. The Thunderbirds finished runner-up in the ACCAC last season to the Phoenix College Bears but finished No. 1 the last two seasons.

Coach Cirelli starts his 24th season at the helm of Thunderbirds baseball, with only eight returning players. It’s basically another new team of athletes on the diamond this year. However, there is hope because last season, the baseball team finished first in-conference gaining home-field advantage for the Arizona Community College Athletic Association (ACCAC) playoffs. The Thunderbirds would play the next two games of the three-game series, on Saturday.  The Redhawks would fall in both games of the Saturday doubleheader. There is a different set up for these types of matches. The first game is only seven innings and the second is the traditional played with nine innings.  In Game One of the doubleheader, Mesa would take 5-0 with five hits and two errors. T-Birds would put runs on the scoreboard, three in the first, and one in the second and sixth inning.

Game Two of the doubleheader would be more of a challenge, but the T-birds would complete the sweep of Benedictine. At the top of the second, Benedictine had a man on third that attempted to run home after the batter hit the ball into the field of play. Marcus Skundrich, catcher, would field the hit and toss it to pitcher Richard Walker for the tag out.  The following inning, MCC would strikeout the first hitter. Then walk the second batter, who would steal second base and eventually score on a single from #81. The next batter would hit a double and score the previous batter.  Benedictine would tie up the ballgame in the top of the third but never managed to bring in any more runs, in the final game of the series. The T-Birds would bring in Riley Peterson, a transfer from New Mexico, on a Joshua Brown, infielder, double, and retake the lead in the bottom of the third.

“I just wanted a new place to play. We got a new coach last year and we had a really good year just wanted to find a new place, just didn’t feel like it was the right fit for me,” said Peterson. MCC would notch the final three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning, with the possibility of a fourth when Connor Denning hit a triple. Nevertheless, Peterson would line out to the first baseman to end the inning.  Cirelli said he liked what the team had done during the opening series.  “They threw strikes and changed speeds, and threw strikes with their off-speed pitch. So, that’s huge, and they’re throwing them at any count,” said Cirelli. It is too early to make predictions, but this season opener was a glimpse into the possibility of another great season for the MCC Baseball Thunderbirds. Mesa’s next two games are away and home against Arizona Christian University, which they won 9-2 and 8-3.  MCC beat Grand Canyon University Club decisively, 8-1.  The Thunderbirds next games are a home doubleheader against University of Arizona Club on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018, at noon.

Mesa Legend Staff

Mesa Legend Staff

These are archived stories from Mesa Legend editions before Fall 2018. See article for corresponding author.
Mesa Legend Staff

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