When Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep pitcher Danny Stolper took a hard grounder off the calf in the second inning against Chandler Seton Catholic, he didn’t think he’d make it out of the inning, much less the rest of the game.
“I didn’t think I was getting up from the ground, to be honest,” Stolper said. “I didn’t think I was, but once I got on my feet I knew I wasn’t going to come out.”
Stolper eventually got to his feet, tested the leg and threw a couple pitches before play resumed. He got out of the inning with a double play, and ended up tossing 61/3 innings to lead Notre Dame to a 4-3 win Tuesday at Camelback Ranch in the elimination round of the state tournament.
No. 3 Notre Dame (27-7) will face No. 4 Tucson Sahuaro in an elimination game at Camelback Ranch at 4 p.m. Thursday.
Stolper scattered six hits and allowed just two earned runs. He didn’t strike out any batters, but walked only one. His strong play has been a big boost for Notre Dame, which lost No. 2 starter Devon Deraad to a broken collarbone two weeks ago.
“We didn’t expect him to go seven,” Notre Dame coach Brian Fischer said. “We thought if we got four out of him we’d be very happy. We owed it to him to keep running him out there.”
Notre Dame struggled early offensively, but tacked on a run in each of the final four innings. Pitcher M.J. Villegas was dominant for Seton Catholic (23-8) early, not allowing a hit in the first three innings to stake his team to a 1-0 lead.
But as the game wore on, Notre Dame’s batters extended at-bats to get Villegas’ pitch count up, and eventually got to him just enough. Villegas lasted six innings, giving up six hits and striking out 12.
“He had a real good fastball, and he didn’t have his other pitches today,” Seton Catholic coach Marty Maier said. “When he throws his breaking pitch a little bit harder, they don’t take it. So a lot of swing-and-misses we normally get with him on breaking pitches because they’re having to start their hands early because of the good fastball, it was slow enough that they were able to stop.”
Seton Catholic trailed 4-1 entering the seventh, but scored a pair of two-out runs on Alec Eddy’s infield single and a subsequent Notre Dame error. But No. 9 hitter Niko Villegas struck out against Notre Dame reliever Jeremy Horgan to end the game.
M.J. Villegas led Seton Catholic at the plate, going 3 for 3 with a double. For Notre Dame, Nick Affronti was 2 for 3 with a pair of triples and Cooper Samples was 2 for 4.