The T-Birds scored four runs in the second inning, and that proved to be all that the pitchers would need as Mesa defeated Paradise Valley for the second straight day, this time at Mesa Community College 4-2 on Wednesday afternoon. After beating the Pumas on the road 6-4 on Tuesday, and splitting two games with the Pima Aztecs over the weekend, Mesa baseball was eager to play at home again, and take advantage of a team that coming in was sitting last in the ACCAC at 1-5 in conference play and 5-8 overall. After teams failed to score in the first despite the Pumas collecting back to back singles with two outs, Mesa drew first blood in their half of the second. Third basemen Drew Bailey led the inning off with a walk, and after second basemen Matt Ayala struck out, the rally really got going when the next batter, centerfielder Hunter Bross drew the second walk of the inning putting a runner in scoring position with one out.
Catcher Mike Roberson singled to right field loading the bases full of T-Birds. Drew Lawrence then delivered the at bat of the game lining a fastball down the left field line into the corner for a bases clearing double and a 3-0 Mesa lead. Lawrence delivered for his team when they needed it most. “I was just trying to put something in play and make something happen,” he said. “Got a fastball middle in and just connected with it on time and scored some runs.”With a potential run still on the bases, RF Jarred Crockett delivered what seemed like an early insurance run driving in Lawrence with a single to make it 4-0. T-Birds starting pitcher Chase Merriman was brilliant on the mound allowing seven hits and no runs with three strikeouts and two walks in six innings of work. He needed just 83 pitches to get through 27 batters faced, and through 17 first pitch strikes.
“He (Merriman) really pitched well and he competed,” Cirelli said. “He threw strikes and had good command of the fastball.” Merriman faced bases loaded one out situations twice, and got out unscathed both times. Paradise Valley left 29 runners on base. Mesa also left plenty of scoring chances on the basepaths, and Cirelli thought his team didn’t adjust well enough to the umpire’s strike zone. “We struck out way too much today,” he said. “We can’t waist two at bats and then go hey it’s a wide zone you got to make an adjustment a little sooner.” Pima starter Austin Thomason struck out 10 batters in seven innings of work throwing 103 pitches. The game would remain scoreless until the top of the eighth when Paradise Valley got on the scoreboard with two runs of their own. With reliever John Cranston pitching for Mesa, Pima collected back to back singles from their sixth and seventh hitters, Collin Gabel and Jake Alexander.
After back to back strikeouts, second basemen Brady Hield singled home a run, and another run would come around to score thanks to a forced through back in from rightfield. This cut MCC’s lead in half at 4-2. Mesa made it a lot tougher on themselves in the ninth inning thanks to more mental errors in the field. An error by SS Esteban Martinez allowed leadoff man Brady Weiss to reach base, and after a 6-4 fielder’s choice allowing cleanup man and first basemen Marshall Forrest to reach, DH Luis Mendoza flew out for the second out of the inning. With just one more out to get, and closer Nick Ohanian throwing gas and featuring his best stuff, this game seemed well in hand.
Instead another error at short on a throw that went over first basemen Jacob Boston to play the ball next to the T-Birds dugout, there were suddenly two runners in scoring position and one base hit would tie the game.
“That’s the best shortstop anywhere, and if it comes down to it that is who we want the ball hit to,” Cirelli said. “We just need to slow down and play the game.” The next batter, Alexander, worked the count to 3-2 before Ohanian struck him out swinging with a nasty slider to end the game collecting his second save of the season. With the victory, Mesa moves to 16-2 overall and 7-1 in the ACCAC.