The undefeated Mesa Thunderbirds (12-0) opened up conference play Feb. 15 against Paradise Valley (8-2), the team that knocked the T-Birds out of the playoffs last year.When asked about if the loss last season played into the motivation for this game, MCC head coach Tony Cirelli responded “No . We get 38 conference games it’s just another conference game.”
Mesa starting pitcher Michael Desabrais got off to a rough start, walking lead off batter Mike Reynolds and then allowing him to steal second while facing the number three hitter, catcher Benjamin McKinnon. The steal turned out to be costly as McKinnon singled up the right side to drive in the run.
Center fielder Bryan Dunleavy led off the bottom of the first for Mesa with a walk and steal of his own. Outfielder Mike Davalos followed the steal with a line drive single that moved Dunleavy to third. Davalos then got a steal of his own, his twelfth of the year. PV pitcher Brian King then hit Mesa’s Michael Wesolowski with a pitch to load the bases. Another walk, this time to First baseman Kyle Pietryga , brought home a Thunderbirds run to tie it at 1-1.
The second inning was no kinder to the Thunderbirds as Desabrais led the inning off walking two of the first three PV batters before getting a visit to the mound. The pep talk did very little as Reynolds returned to the plate for the Pumas and hit a triple to center, driving in a run. Harlyn Griffiths followed with a single of his own to drive in Reynolds and give PV a 3-1 lead.
Mesa rebounded in the bottom of the second to put up five runs including a double by Darian Johnson that drove in a run and put himself and Davalos in scoring position. PV’s King also committed a balk that brought a run in and threw a wild pitch before getting benched for Josh Wonser.
Desabrais got out of a jam with runners on the corners in the third by inducing a double play to get out of the inning.
Desabrais looked to finally be under control in the fourth by getting the first two batters he faced out. Reynolds returned to the plate for PV and drew a walk and stole his second base. Desabrais gave up hits to the next two batters, one of which drove in a run, and was pulled from the game for Kevin Kimball.
A passed ball against the next batter allowed PV to score and bring it within a run of Mesa.
The Thunderbirds failed to convert a bases loaded opportunity in the fourth with two outs.
In the Top of the sixth Reynolds returned to the plate for PV and drew another walk followed by his third stolen base of the night which began the downfall of the Thunderbirds.
The Pumas scored six runs in the inning to take a 12-6 lead. A score that wouldn’t change as the game was called due to darkness after the eighth.
“We just didn’t throw strikes . the pitchers didn’t compete . we just didn’t compete on the mound, I was pretty disappointed in those guys” said Cirelli. “You’re not going to win games when you walk 14 guys, that’s a joke.