This was not the way Saguaro plays baseball.
Walks, walks and more walks.
Plus, Sabercats pitching surrendered key hits at key moments and eventually fell to Phoenix Sunnyslope, 9-2, Thursday night in the winner’s bracket semifinal of the Division II state baseball tournament at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
The loss dropped Saguaro into playing an elimination game Saturday at 6:30 p.m. against Peoria Liberty at Camelback Ranch-Glendale Stadium. The winner will face Sunnyslope for the state championship.
For the Sabercats to survive Liberty and advance to the Division II state championship next Tuesday night, they will have to show resiliency and the ability to shake off the difficulties from a challenging Thursday night.
“We didn’t get the job done in the dugout and we didn’t get the job on the field,” said centerfielder Zach Gibbons. “We certainly did not play our best, but we’ll be back.”
Those walks, especially early in the game, doomed the Sabercats.
Starter Daniel Akmon retired the first hitter he faced, but then came the walks. After putting two on base with free passes, Vikings’ catcher Ryan Oberg, singled in one and Royal Love’s sacrifice fly quickly pushed Sunnyslope out to a 2-0 lead.
The Vikings added three in the third and mounted a 5-0 lead before the Sabercats responded.
Scoring two to cut the margin to 5-2, poor base-running may have prevented Saguaro from putting up a big inning.
Saguaro's Brandon Allen and Dakota Reistad singled with one out. Leadoff hitter Austin Anderson then grounded to Love at first, but his toss to pitcher Calvin LeBrun covering the bag was wide. While Love went behind first to retrieve the ball, Anderson took off for second but easily gunned down by Love’s throw to shortstop Collin O’Neil.
On the play, Allen scored and Reistad moved to third, then scored on a single from Gibbons. Chris Akmon then grounded out to third to end the inning.
The two runs were all LeBrun allowed, as the Vikings’ left-hander went the distance, allowed eight hits, those two runs, walked one and struck out three.
Later, more walks doomed the Cats and Sunnyslope took full advantage.
After Saguaro reliever sophomore Nick Meservey pitched a scoreless fourth inning, his control deserted him. With four walks and a run-producing wild pitch in the fifth, the Vikings converted Meservey’s wildness into three runs and effectively sent the Sabercats into Saturday's elimination game.
“You can’t walk hitters, we didn’t execute and they were the better team,” Sabercats coach Ryan Dyer said. “We’ll get back to practice (Friday), get ready for a very good Liberty team, and hope to get better.”