With the wind blowing out and offensive juggernaut Mountain Pointe in the other dugout, not even a three-run lead with six outs left seemed particularly safe for Desert Ridge.
Scott Hoffman changed that quickly.
The Desert Ridge right-hander brought a slugfest to a halt with three scoreless innings out of the bullpen as the Jaguars defeated No. 4 Mountain Pointe 9-6 in 5A East Valley baseball action on Wednesday afternoon at Desert Ridge.
Hoffman, the Tribune’s 2010 Player of the Year and an Arizona State commit, allowed an inherited runner to score to tie the game in the top of the fifth, but the Jaguars answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning and he retired six of the final seven batters to earn the victory.
Hoffman started on Tuesday but only threw 40 pitches, so he threw at the end of the game because it was his scheduled day to throw a bullpen.
“He’s a nice guy to have back there,” Desert Ridge coach Pat Herrera said with a smile. “Maybe we’ll just have him close.”
Mountain Pointe’s best chance to cut into the deficit came in the top of the sixth with slugger Kevin Cron at the plate and a man on base. Hoffman fell behind 3-0 but battled back to get a groundout to shortstop on an inside fastball.
The Pride catcher went 0-for-4 on the day. Cron is one home run away from setting the 5A career record at 44 and two away from breaking the state record, but Mountain Pointe coach Brandon Buck said his star player was probably more amped up for the big game against Desert Ridge than the home run feat.
These two teams played in last year’s state title game, which the Jaguars won, and are also region foes.
“He was just geeked up for the game,” Mountain Pointe coach Brandon Buck said. “He probably doesn’t even have any idea what the record is or how many he needs.”
Riley Unroh had the go-ahead RBI triple in the fifth inning for Desert Ridge and Justin Donovan went 3-for-3 with a double and four RBIs.
Joey Curletta was 3-for-4 with a solo home run and a pair of runs scored to lead Mountain Pointe.
Desert Ridge has won two straight state championships and this was certainly a confidence-building victory, but Herrera thinks his team is too inexperienced to be considered a contender in 5A-I at this juncture.
“It’s smoke and mirrors with this group,” Herrera said. “We have so many guys that haven’t played. We’re just trying to show up and compete.”