Despite the East Valley’s traditional rule over Division I baseball, Tucson coach Oscar Romero thinks his team has been overlooked.
“We read the ratings and we look at the papers, and of course we just kind of take it in stride and say we’ve got to prove ourselves,” Romero said.
There’s no more poetic way to change that perception than to beat the defending state champs, which is exactly what Tucson did with a 6-1 win over Scottsdale Chaparral in the third round of the state tournament Thursday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
Tucson will play Phoenix Mountain Pointe in the fourth round at 4 p.m. Saturday at Tempe Diablo Stadium, while Chaparral will face Phoenix Desert Vista in a loser-out game at 6:30 p.m. later that day at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
Tucson (28-4-1) didn’t even record a hit until the fifth inning. Chaparral starter Andrew Schaps struggled with his command, though, walking seven and hitting a batter in three innings.
Schaps began the fourth with Chaparral (18-13) up 1-0, but walked three batters and hit another to send in a run before recording an out. Collin Gabel relieved him and got out of the inning with a strikeout and a double play, but didn’t fare much better in the fifth.
That’s when Tucson finally started to hit, knocking in five runs on five hits off Gable and fellow reliever Michael Diamond to take a 6-1 lead.
“In our last five ballgames, I’ll be honest with you, that’s the way it’s been,” Romero said. “We had (Tucson) Sunnyside on Tuesday, and it was the same way.”
Those five hits were the only ones Tucson recorded the entire game, but Tucson senior pitcher Ryan Norrix held Chaparral to just six, while striking out five.
Norrix is listed at about 5-8 – generously, Romero admits – but kept Chaparral off balance while walking just one, compared to 10 free passes issued by Chaparral pitchers.
“He was working on his fastball, keeping it down and leaving it in the corners,” Romero said. “He was placing things, and obviously his changeup was working today. His curveball wasn’t there early, and later on it started kicking in over his changeup.”
“He misses around the plate,” added Chaparral coach Sam Messina. “He’s probably just wild enough within the zone to be effective. And the ball jumps out of his head pretty good.”
Felipe Peralta went 1 for 2 with a two-run double to led Tucson, while Kyle Palmer went 3 for 3 with a double and a triple for Chaparral.