Tuesday marked Scottsdale Notre Dame’s fourth title game appearance in the past six years.
The three previous contests ended in heartbreak for the No. 3 seed, which has never been better than second best.
That is, until now.
Notre Dame, behind the fierce fast ball of Austin Schnabel, defeated defending champion No. 5 Phoenix Sunnyslope 2-1 Tuesday in the Division II matchup and claimed its first-ever state title at Camelback Ranch.
“This is surreal to me,” Schnabel said. “It all just came together for us and this is the culmination of a great season.”
Schnabel threw a complete game and struck out eight batters, while allowing one run, two hits and walking one.
Notre Dame got a couple runs in early, which helped Schnabel settle in. Hunter Bross hit a double in the second inning that scored Duncan Morfitt and Ryan Scott tacked another run on in the top of the third with a single that scored Kobie Foppe and stetched the lead to two.
Sunnyslope’s offense got going a little bit in the fourth inning, and Calvin LeBrun scored on a wild pitch to cut the lead to one, but Schnabel would strike out four of the final nine batters and put this one away.
Schnabel said he relied heavily on his fastball.
“I maybe threw five curveballs all day,” he said. “I just located my fastball really well, and they just kept pounding it into the ground or hitting deep pop flies.”
With a runner at first in the bottom of the seventh, Sunnyslope’s Royal Love sent a ball flying to deep center field that almost cleared the fence, but Notre Dame’s Jimmy Ditroia came up with the grab.
“When he hit that one I was staring out there and thinking, ‘please don’t go out,’” Schnabel said.
Sunnyslope pitcher Cody Bergkamp struck out six batters and allowed two runs and seven hits. He hit one batter and had one walk.
Notre Dame coach Brian Fischer said he knew coming into the game that he was facing a tough team and tough pitcher in Bergkamp.
“That is a great team,” Notre Dame coach Brian Fischer said. “They’ve been here and they’ve won it so we had a dog fight. But our guys don’t give up. They play till the end.”