Senior leadership is essential come playoff time, as Phoenix Pinnacle High’s baseball team proved against visiting Gilbert Mesquite in Tuesday’s second round of the Division I playoffs.
Pinnacle hammered out 18 hits to win 13-8 and advance to Thursday’s double-elimination Final Eight tournament against Tolleson at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Seven of the team’s 13 seniors who played accounted for 11 of the hits, including five in the first and fourth innings and four in the fifth. Brock Hartley led the way by going 3-for-4 with team-leading ninth and 10th homers and a double. His solo shot put Pinnacle up 6-4 in the third, and his three-run blast gave Pinnacle its biggest lead, 13-6, in the fifth.
“That first (at-bat) I knew they’d pitch around me,” Hartley said of walking initially. “Once we got the lead, though, I knew they’d have to pitch to me.
“I felt the guys were leaning on me to get things started in the postseason.”
Another senior, Sam Welton, hit a triple and two-run homer for a 10-4 lead in the fourth inning that werevital to gaining playoff momentum.
“Winning like we did gave us confidence,” he said. “At this point in the season, you have to find a way to get on base or score in any way necessary.”
Even junior Jacob Weiss chipped in, hitting a double and two singles and an RBI.
“He’s been working his butt off all year,” Pinnacle coach John Casey said.
Runs proved plentiful early in the game between No. 4-seeded Pinnacle, which had a bye through the first round, and No. 13 Mesquite, which advanced past Yuma Cibola 10-0 Saturday. Mesquite (21-9) scored twice on four hits in the first inning, and Pinnacle (20-12) answered with five runs in their half of the inning and never trailed thereafter. Mesquite, winner of 10 of its previous 11, came no closer than 5-4, when Brad Holland hit a solo homer in the second
Mesquite had 14 hits, including Holland’s homer and double, Tyler Pollett’s two doubles and a single and Alex Murrieta’s three singles. But Mesquite failed in its attempt to surpass its 2008 final against Hamilton.
Casey and his players acknowledged homers might be fewer at a Tempe Diablo Stadium field roughly 10 percent larger than Pinnacle’s. Come 4 p.m. Thursday, Pinnacle likely will rely on seniors Parker Manahan, M.J. Hubbs, Hartley and Alec Friedman, all batting above .400 in the regular season’s final month, but not necessarily their home runs.
“We’ll probably have to get more line-drive hits,” Casey said. “But still, there’s no substitute for getting the barrel on the ball.”