After struggling in their first two 4A Division I state baseball tournament games, you had to figure Chaparral — the two-time defending champion and top seed — was about to erupt. It happened Thursday night.
Leading by only a run over Tucson Sabino in the semifinals at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, the Firebirds exploded for seven runs in the fifth inning and cruised to a 9-3 victory.
The Firebirds will make their eighth appearance in 10 years in a championship game at 4 p.m. Saturday against Tucson Amphitheater at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
“We needed to do that, get going and get some runs,” said second baseman Kyle Williams, who staked Chaparral to the lead with a two-run homer in the third inning. “That’s what we had done all season, score 10 runs or more.”
In their tourney opener, the Firebirds (31-3-1) needed to rally late to get past Avondale Agua Fria 6-3. They needed runs late again to beat Phoenix Moon Valley by the same score in the quarterfinals.
It looked like more of the same against Sabino, as the Sabercats’ Josh Crooks and Chaparral’s Charles Brewer quickly locked into a pitchers’ duel. Brewer gave up a run in the top of the first inning before settling in. Crooks’ only miscue over four innings was Williams’ opposite-field blast.
That all changed in the fifth. The Firebirds sent 11 men to the plate.
“We just haven’t been executing,” said Chaparral coach Jerry Dawson. “We have been very fortunate.”
Adam Bailey added a home run for the Firebirds and Jake Schlander had three hits.
Amphitheater 9, Pinnacle 7
The Pioneers were rolling along, leading 5-3 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning when their own wildness did them in.
Amphitheater scored six times in the inning on only two hits. That’s because Pioneer pitchers walked four batters and hit three others.
“We gave it up,” said Pinnacle coach Dave Thomas. “We hit batsmen and had three (actually four) walks.”
Pinnacle’s Brett Nicholas hit a two-run homer in the top of the seventh inning to make it 9-7. The game ended with the tying run at the plate.
Drew Palen also homered for the Pioneers.