Nick Guaragna still thinks there might have been a mistake.
When Chaparral’s sophomore second baseman plays the field, the coaching staff usually has a designated hitter bat for him. So when he came up to the plate in a bases-loaded, one-out situation in the third inning, Guaragna figured there was a procedural error which forced him into the batter’s box.
In reality, it was the team trusting him, and it paid off.
Guaragna came through with an RBI single in that spot and finished 2-for-3 with a double, three RBIs and the go-ahead run to help No. 10 Chaparral rally for a 12-8 victory over No. 23 Basha in the first round of the Division I baseball tournament at Chaparral.
Guaragna entered the game batting just .240 with one extra base hit in 25 at-bats.
“I said, ‘Is someone DHing for me’?’” Guaragna said. “(Hitting coach John Powers) said, ‘Just put on your batting gloves.’ So I’m sitting there on-deck swinging the weight, and when I got up it was a pretty big situation.”
Guaragna fell behind 0-2 but laced a fastball to left field to cut Chaparral’s deficit to 5-3. He would score on a Michael Diamond double to put the Firebirds ahead 6-5, and they wouldn’t trail the rest of the way.
The defending champion Firebirds pounded out 12 hits, quickly erasing an early 5-1 deficit. Chaparral scored seven runs in the third inning and four in the fourth to take control. Chris Nimtz and Tanner Bollig each had three hits.
“I just thought if we stuck with our approach at the plate we’d probably be able to find some holes, and it seemed to work,” Chaparral coach Sam Messina said.
Basha jumped out to the early four-run lead behind a pair of home runs from Zach Torriente. The Bears won their final two regular season games to make the postseason, and had designs of making a deep run.
However, there were some baserunning miscues and five errors combined in the third and fourth innings which allowed Chaparral to take the lead.
“We thought once we got the draw we were going to come in here and win this game,” Basha coach Jim Schilling said. “It just didn’t work out.”
Torriente finished 2-for-3 with two homers and three RBIs, reaching base four times. Jamie Westbrook was 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs, while Ronnie Querry was 2-for-3 with a walk, an RBI and a run scored.
Diamond had three RBIs for the Firebirds and then shut the door late on the mound. Chaparral missed out on a first-round bye by dropping its season finale to Horizon, but is now one win away from advancing to the state quarterfinals. It will play at No. 7 Goodyear Millennium on Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Messina was not worried about the team’s state of mind heading into this one despite dropping out of the top-8 on the last day.
“I knew we were going to compete,” Messina said. “I can’t say win or lose, but I knew we’d compete.”
The game was testy after a collision on a tag ended the Chaparral third inning. One Chaparral player and four Basha players were hit by pitches in the final four innings, although both coaches said everything was ironed out in a postgame conversation.
“These kids are going incredibly hard,” Messina said. “Obviously there’s a lot at stake. These kids are great competitors on both sides...It was nothing. Just good, hard baseball.”