After 16 innings, Horizon baseball wins longest champion in Arizona history

Photo: Michael Chow/Arizona Republic

After 16 innings, Horizon baseball wins longest champion in Arizona history

Baseball

After 16 innings, Horizon baseball wins longest champion in Arizona history

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Finally, after Kody Huff squeezed the ball for the final out, Horizon High School (Scottsdale, Ariz.) could throw up their gloves and celebrate victory in the longest game in Arizona high school baseball state championship history.

Horizon broke through with a run in the 15th inning, got three more in the 16th, and outlasted top-seed Nogales High School (Ariz.) 7-4 for the 5A championship Tuesday night before a crowd of about 8,000 at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

It lasted 5 hours, 35 minutes, and was four innings longer than the previous longest state championship game in the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s annals. In 2003, Chaparral beat Scottsdale-rival Coronado 4-3 in 12 innings for the 4A crown.

“That had to be one of the greatest high school baseball games ever played,” first-year Horizon coach Jeff Urlaub said.

Urlaub kept asking his star, Huff, if he had one more inning in him to pitch.

Huff, who has signed with Stanford, gave Urlaub eight innings of one-hit, shutout relief after Horizon had tied the score at 3-3 in the sixth inning.

“Finally, you have to realize he’s got a college future,” Urlaub said.

Huff started the game at catcher, moved to shortstop for an inning, pitched eight innings, before playing shortstop the last three innings.

“I can’t remember ever going eight innings like that,” Huff said. “Me this year, I’ve been a competitor. I wanted to put the team on my back and try to ride it as long as I could. Thankfully, I could put up zeroes for eight innings, give us a chance to come back.”

Light-hitting sophomore Austin Corbett wound up being the offensive star, driving in a run on a double down the left-field line in the top of the 15th inning that gave Horizon a 4-3 lead.

Corbett, who came into the game hitting .250, had only one hit in his five previous games. He gave Horizon insurance in the 16th when he singled in another run with two outs for a 7-4 lead.

Horizon’s 16th started with Huff getting hit by a pitch. Nogales made a rare defensive mistake on a hard hit ball to short. It should have been an easy double play. But the second baseman’s throw drew the first baseman off the bag, allowing Tony Sortino to reach base.

After a walk, Nogales brought in its seventh pitcher, who gave up an RBI single to Nick Gore, before balking in a run.

Both teams were sensational in the field.

Both were resilient to the last pitch.

Nogales, which won the past two 4A state championships, before moving up a conference this year, went through three catchers. Its starting catcher was ejected for arguing pitches behind home plate in the ninth inning. His backup catcher got hurt and had to come out in the 14th.

Third-string catcher Adam Sinohui helped extend the longest state championship game in history with his first hit of the season to  start the bottom of the 15th. Freshman Raenon Padilla, pinch running, tied the score on a pinch-hitter Brayan Espinoza’s double with two outs.

Horizon did not make an error, and junior Sam Buchkowski, moving over from short, pitched the last two innings to get the win.

“I was  just trying to go out and give us a shot to win,” Buchkowski said. “That’s a good baseball team, and I knew it wouldn’t be easy. We had to give it everything we had to win this.”

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After 16 innings, Horizon baseball wins longest champion in Arizona history
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