With the prep baseball season down to the final two weeks and the battle for playoff spots as tight as money in the current economy, Mesa Westwood needed a win Friday afternoon in the worst way.
The Warriors strategy? Start freshman Geraldo Arzaga, its closer, who hasn’t seen much action of late since there’s been little to close.
Arzaga came through in a blaze of blue and orange as he outdueled Mesa Skyline ace Darian Johnson in a 5-4 Warriors victory over the Coyotes at HoHoKam Park.
“Nobody believes in us except them,” Westwood coach Brian Stephenson said, pointing to his players cleaning out their dugout after the win. “We started the season losing 23-6 to Skyline and then got beat 14-2. You can get down getting beat like that. Sometimes a team falls that way and gives up. But these kids, especially the seniors, have stayed with it. They haven’t quit. Just gone out and said let’s take our chances and see what happens.”
Westwood entered play Friday as the No. 16 seed in the 5A-I power-point standings with a 7-5 record in power-point games.
The top 16 teams qualify for state at the end of the regular season. The Warriors are now 8-5 and still have a fighting chance to qualify when no one gave them a shot. They are likely to move up in the rankings when they are updated on Monday.
The shot they got Friday came from Arzaga, who went the distance scattering seven hits, walking three and striking out four.
“He started one other time and hadn’t pitched much, so we decided to go with him,” Stephenson said. “He really pitched well.”
Westwood (8-13) scored all its runs in the first three innings against Johnson, who came into Friday’s game with seven wins and an earned-run average of 2.35.
The Warriors collected seven of their eight hits in those three innings before Johnson found his groove and retired 13 of the last 14 batters he faced. Four Westwood players had RBIs -- Josh Joe, Carlos Arzaga, Jake Tyra and Mario Mendoza.
The fifth run, which proved to be the game winner, came on Marshall Davis’s triple in the third. Davis scored in the inning on a wild pitch.
Geraldo Arzaga gave up two runs in the first inning, but settled down with little trouble again until the fifth. With a 5-2 lead at that point, Skyline’s Mike Wesolowski reached on an error and scored as the next pitch was a homer by Johnson over the right field wall, cutting the lead 5-4. Skyline (14-10) had a mild threat in the sixth and went down in order in the seventh.