David Greer paced around his classrooms at Desert Mountain on Tuesday, anxiously awaiting the start of the Division I baseball state championship game.
Several hours later, he couldn’t wait for it to end.
The Wolves’ star senior lined a single into right field with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning, scoring Michael Salazar for the 4-3 victory over Chaparral at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Greer jumped up and down excitedly on his way to first base and turned around to watch Salazar beat the throw home, giving Desert Mountain its first baseball championship in school history. Greer made it here as a wide-eyed freshman in 2010 but lost. This time around, he knew how much it would mean to go out on top.
“Today in class, there were a few times I had to get up and walk around,” Greer said. “I was getting so antsy that I couldn’t sit there. I told my teachers, ‘I’m really sorry for this but I can’t sit down. I really couldn’t.’ I didn’t know the emotions were going to be so difficult this senior year.”
This was the first year under coach Brian Stephenson, who lost his teaching job at the school during the baseball season but later regained it. Despite the firing of coach Bryan Rice after last year’s season and the in-season tumult with Stephenson, the Wolves always kept their eye on the prize.
“We knew either way we were going to come out here and play to the best of our abilities,” Greer said. “We had to. We owed it to ourselves.”
The team lingered on the field for more than a half hour after the contest ended, reveling in the championship. Stephenson praised his players continuously in a postgame interview, only stopping when he got doused with water out of a Gatorade bucket.
“That’s the best shower I’ve had in a long time,” Stephenson said.
Desert Mountain scored three runs off Chaparral starter Kyle Palmer in the first inning and the Firebirds scored a pair early as well. The game then settled down considerably, as Chaparral left-hander Dillon Bigcrane-Jackson came in and quieted the Desert Mountain bats.
The Firebirds rallied like they had all postseason on a Colter Kilgour RBI single in the top of the sixth inning, but left the bases loaded when leadoff hitter Chris Nimtz grounded out to second base.
Greer relieved starter Cody Erickson (six innings, three earned runs) in the seventh inning and was dominant, as he struck out four batters and didn’t allow a hit in two innings of work to get the win.
Salazar led off the eighth inning with a walk and was sacrificed over to second by Tanner Fraley. Corey Wheaton almost won the game himself on a line drive down the left field line, but it went a couple feet foul.
Greer then stroked a 2-1 pitch into right field for the game-winning single, barely out of the reach of Palmer.
“Scared me so much, you have no idea," Greer said. "I thought it was just like the last at-bat when he had it. It sneaked right past him."
He finished the game 3-for-5 with a double at the plate.
Chaparral coach Sam Messina went to the mound before the at-bat and considered walking Greer, but Erickson, Desert Mountain’s No. 2 hole hitter, is also dangerous at the plate.
“It’s pick your poison: Him or Erickson,” Messina said.
Bigcrane took over with two outs in the first inning and never left the game. He allowed the one late run in seven innings pitched. He threw 108 pitches after tossing two innings of relief in an elimination game against Tucson on Saturday.
“We talked every inning to see how he feels,” Messina said. “He felt good enough and he did a great job for us.”
Desert Mountain entered the postseason as the No. 1 seed and the favorite, but many contenders around them dropped off in early upsets. The Wolves didn’t lose a game throughout and everyone else lost two.
“We felt like we had the best team, but the best team doesn’t always win,” Stephenson said. “There’s a lot of good teams in this state. That one (Chaparral) right there included. But we battle, man. I think the best team won tonight.”