In a game full of offense and errors, it was a defensive gem that helped Gilbert stay in the winner’s bracket of the 5A Division I state baseball tournament.
With runners on first and third with one out in a tie game in the top of the seventh, Corona del Sol’s Kyle Jorgenson got caught in a rundown between first and second. Teammate Josh Ethier began to inch toward home plate during the commotion, but Gilbert shortstop Drew Stankiewicz saw it and fired behind Ethier at third for an eventual out.
Brett Spradling then grounded out to end the inning, and Stankiewicz hit a bases-loaded single in the bottom of the seventh as the No. 6 Tigers survived, 12-11, on Saturday afternoon at Gilbert.
Gilbert advances to play No. 14 Dobson, which upset Desert Ridge. No. 11 Corona del Sol will play the third-seeded Jaguars in an elimination game on Tuesday.
This contest had five combined errors, but it was Stankiewicz’s heady play that squashed the Aztecs’ shot at pulling ahead again in a back-and-forth affair.
“When you need to make a play, he does it,” Gilbert coach Matt Gutierrez said. “He’s been doing that all season long. We’re not perfect, but in a key situation like that, he was clutch.”
Stankiewicz is committed to Cal State Fullerton, and is one of the top defensive shortstops in the state.
“He does that all the time in practice, fakes somewhere and then back picks another kid,” catcher Nathaniel Causey said. “That’s kind of his play.”
The Tigers planned to throw ace left-hander Stephen Tarpley, but he didn’t play after breaking a team rule. That opened the door for plenty of offense, as the teams combined for 23 runs on 26 hits, including six home runs.
Gilbert led 3-0, Corona del Sol led 6-3, Gilbert led 10-7, and Corona del Sol was ahead 11-10 heading into the bottom of the sixth. There was at least one run scored in every inning but the fourth.
“Whoever had the last up was going to win the ballgame, most likely,” Gutierrez said.
Gilbert loaded the bases with nobody out in the bottom of the seventh inning. Following a fielder’s choice at home for the first out of the inning, Stankiewicz jumped on the first pitch and sent it deep into center field, over the head of the drawn in outfielders.
It was Gilbert’s fifth straight win and seventh in its past eight games.
Dustin Peterson and Causey were the offensive stars for the Tigers. Peterson went 4-for-4 with a home run, two RBIs and three runs scored. Causey was 3-for-3 with two homers and five RBIs.
Causey is signed to play for Arizona State next season.
“Once you get in a groove, you just relax and start hitting even better,” Causey said.
Corona del Sol was led by Mike Castellano, who went 2-for-3 with a double, a home run and three runs scored. Chris Gammon also homered for the Aztecs.
Gutierrez said he isn’t sure if Tarpley will start on Tuesday against the Mustangs.