Without a doubt the biggest play of the Division II baseball loser’s bracket final wasn’t the winning hit.
It was a heartbreaking base running error by No. 6 Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge (26-7) with a pickoff at first base in the eighth inning of a 2-2 tie, which decimated any sort of momentum. When asked about the mistake No. 5 Scottsdale Notre Dame pitcher Jeremy Horgan and coach Brian Fischer said the same thing: “It was huge.”
After Horgan got the pickoff he breezed through the next two outs and set up a chance for the game-winning hit. Kobe Foppe, who had already scored the first run for Notre Dame (29-7), stepped up to the plate with the potential game-winning run on second in the bottom half of the inning.
“Kobe can turn it on whenever he wants to,” Fischer said. “He’s done it all year for us. He’s probably guy you want up in a situation like that.”
Foppe crushed a high fastball deep to the right center field warning track, assuring the 3-2 win in eight innings and a chance to play No. 3 Sunnyslope for the state championship.
“I’ve been waiting all week, all year for this,” Foppe said. “This year we have a team that can do it, and we are looking forward to it.”
Foppe’s walk-off hit was a breakthrough for a lineup that was ravaged by Ironwood Ridge pitcher Alex Nolan after he relieved starter Matt Blandeburgo in the fifth. Horgan matched Nolan’s effort rescuing his team in a couple of tense situations after Danny Stopler let up the game-tying run in the sixth. Horgan is mostly used as the team’s closer but pitched two innings without giving up any runs.
“I was ready for whatever needed to be done,” Horgan said. “I just had to step up and come through for my team.”