The funny thing is, Phoenix St. Mary’s coach Mike Collins considered trying to squeeze in the tying run with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the seventh of his squad’s road game against Scottsdale Desert Mountain.
It would have been quite the familiar situation for Desert Mountain, which lost to rival Scottsdale Chaparral on a game-winning squeeze three days before.
But Collins let Antonio Coronado swing away, and the sophomore lined out to short to give Desert Mountain a 5-4 win on Friday.
Finishing on the right side of a close game was cathartic for Desert Mountain (14-3).
“We’ve talked all year that we want to pride ourselves on winning close ball games,” Desert Mountain coach Brian Stephenson said. “When you get in a heated situation, you someone’s got to step up and make a play. You want to be relaxed, you want to be calm, and you’ve got to pull together.”
Desert Mountain led 5-2 entering the seventh, but starter Jake McAdams loaded the bases with no outs on two singles and a hit batter. After Irvin Ruiz chopped a two-run single over the head of Tim Willittes at first base, St. Mary’s (14-2) had cut the lead to 5-4.
That’s when Stephenson turned to junior Thomas Wright out of the bullpen. Wright had mostly started for Desert Mountain, and hadn’t thrown in relief in almost a month.
“This time I just felt a lot more confident in myself, just coming out of the bullpen knowing I could do it,” Wright said.
Wright struck out the first two batters he faced, both swinging, but dealt Lukas Treffers a full-count walk to load the bases with two outs. Getting the strikeouts took significant pressure off the junior, and he felt he could allow a ball in play to Coronado.
After working to another full count, that ball made a bee-line for Cody Erickson at short and ended the game.
“Thomas Wright came in and just was outstanding,” Stephenson said. “He was competitive as it gets, and that’s a tough situation for any guy. He answered the bell and just went out there and competed his butt off.”
Erickson led Desert Mountain, going 1 for 3 with a two-run homer in the first. Lucas Jacobi and Corey Wheaton each went 2 for 3. McAdams gave up five hits, two walks and two earned runs while striking out three.
Coronado threw 111 pitches for St. Mary’s, giving up seven hits, three earned runs and three walks while striking out four.
“He gutted it out, and he told me over there, ‘If we get the lead, I want to come back out,’” Collins said.
Alex Castillo scored two runs for St. Mary’s.