The Chaparral baseball team isn’t quite ready to give up on its dream of a third consecutive state title.
The Firebirds were down to their final two outs of the season but strung together two walks and three hits in their final five plate appearances to rally for a 3-2 victory over Desert Vista on Saturday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Dillon Jackson-Bigcrane looped a single into short right field to score Chris Nimtz for the game-winning run as Chaparral stays alive in the losers’ bracket of the Division I state tournament.
Desert Vista intentionally walked Collin Gabel to load the bases and set up a double play with one out in the seventh of a 2-2 game, but Bigcrane-Jackson muscled the first pitch he saw in between the second baseman and right fielder.
Bigcrane-Jackson is Chaparral’s cleanup hitter and relished the opportunity to win the game.
“That’s me, especially when my team is counting on me,” Bigcrane-Jackson said. “Shoot, why not me?”
The Firebirds didn’t lose a game in last year’s postseason and boasted Tribune Player of the Year Dylan Cozens as their star. This year’s team isn’t quite as dominant, but believed they still had a chance despite trailing by a run heading into the bottom of the seventh.
Desert Vista took the lead when Nick Levy lined an 0-2 breaking pitch into center field to knock in Keenan Bartlett with two outs in the top of the seventh.
Colter Kilgour flew out to begin Chaparral’s part of the seventh, but Andrew Shaps followed with a double down the left field line. Nimtz walked and Kyle Palmer doubled down the right field line to tie the game. With runners on second and third, Gabel was walked intentionally, and Bigcrane-Jackson took advantage.
Desert Vista beat Brophy and Sandra Day O’Connor in extra innings to advance to the double-elimination part of the tournament, but was on the wrong side of the late rally in this one.
“The kids fought hard and most of the time in those situations we’ve come through this season,” Desert Vista baseball coach Stan Luketich said. “We got four games in the playoffs, but felt like we probably should have had more.”
Both starting pitchers were impressive.
Chaparral’s Spencer Gilbert went 5 2/3 innings, giving up four hits and an unearned run. Desert Vista’s Sean McGuire threw a complete game, with the only earned runs against him coming in the final inning.
“I’m so proud of Spencer Gilbert to come out in this situation and throw like that,” Chaparral coach Sam Messina said. “And their kid was equally as good.”
Palmer finished 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI to lead the Firebirds. Shaps was 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and a run scored. A.J. Valencia and Michael Popeck had two hits apiece for Desert Vista.
Chaparral will face No. 4 Pinnacle on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Phoenix Municipal Stadium in another elimination game.