Though Centennial's baseball season ended two innings early, the 2009 Coyotes will be remembered as the team of the decade at the Peoria school.
In Tuesday's 5A-II elimination game, Centennial ran into a loaded Phoenix Pinnacle team still smarting from a 8-7 loss to Phoenix Horizon Saturday. Pinnacle (25-7) bombed away in the first two innings, building an 11-0 lead.
Centennial (26-7) battled back with a four-run third inning, but were knocked out in the bottom of the fifth by junior Ryan Plantier's three-run homer over the left field fence.
"I think it was obvious that we were outmanned to anyone watching," Centennial coach Jason Nuttall said. "But one thing you can't measure is heart and character and these guys showed it again like they have all year."
Pinnacle batted around in the first inning, scoring five runs. Sophomore Steve Casey punctuated the opening inning with a three-RBI double to deep center field.
In the second inning the Pioneers continued to crush the ball. This time, sophomore Alex Real hit the 3-RBI shot to the center field wall. Casey followed up by driving in Real on a triple.
"That is probably top to bottom the best lineup in the state," Nuttall said. "They spit on good pitches and show real good plate discipline. They make pitchers give in a little and then they pound it."
Nuttall said he was pleased at how his team responded in the third inning. Senior Brian Williams reached on an error and junior Michael Pomeroy followed up with a single.
Junior Austin Arias walked to load the bases with two outs. Senior Todd Orta put the Coyotes on the board by lofting a two-run single just over Pinnacle's third baseman and just inside fair territory. On the next pitch, freshman Zach Hoffpauir drove in two more runs by doubling to the right field corner.
"Every time I've challenged them, they've come through and this was another example," Nuttall said.
In the end, Nuttall said, legendary Corona del Sol coach Ron Davini was right. When Nuttall took the Centennial job, Davini told him it would take four or five years to build the program. This was Nuttall's fifth and best team.
"In the fifth year we finally had the talent, finally had the experience and finally had the team to do it," Nuttall said.