Citizen Staff Writer
TEMPE – Nothing could have prepared Sahuaro and Tempe McClintock for the roller coaster ride they took in the Class 4A Division I state baseball title game.
For three hours and 10 innings, the two teams matched gutsy pitching performances, great plays and timely comebacks. But in the end, McClintock claimed its first state title in 22 years, beating Sahuaro 9-8 in one of the most thrilling high school finals in Arizona history.
McClintock got the final run in the bottom of the 10th off a sacrifice fly from Kyle Heckathorn, scoring Chaz Carles-Contreras. That capped a game at Tempe Diablo Stadium that had six lead changes and three ties.
“It was a very draining game. We battled, they battled and it was just two good ball clubs going at it,” said Sahuaro coach Mark Chandler. “We’re fighters, and it was two heavyweights socking it out. . . . Tonight we showed we had heart as well as McClintock.”
Sahuaro starter Kyle Waddell showed heart – and endurance – lasting to the 10th before being relieved after 123 pitches.
Three times in the final four innings, Sahuaro had a chance to win. The Cougars led 5-4 going into the bottom of the sixth, but McClintock fired back with a run to tie it up, eventually forcing the game into extra innings.
The Cougars took a 6-5 lead in the eighth when Alex Ferguson doubled home Waddell. But McClintock tied the game again in the bottom of the inning after Kelly Kurzman singled home Mark Anderson for the tie.
Sahuaro battled to take an 8-6 lead in the ninth, scoring two runs thanks to an RBI single by Pat McCoy and a sacrifice fly by Waddell. But McClintock’s Jimmy Patterson came right back with the hit of the game – a 430-foot homer to straightaway center – to tie it at 8.
“I just got ahead in the count and (Waddell) just missed with a pitch,” Patterson said. “He threw me a 2-0 change-up on the next pitch and I just figured he was going to challenge me and he did, and I just took advantage of (it).”
With virtually no one else to turn to, Waddell stayed in the game despite giving up eight runs in nine innings. The 6-4 righty pitched into the 10th, but eventually ran out of gas after giving up 17 hits and facing 41 batters.
“It was partly my decision and partly the coaches,” Waddell said. “My arm still felt all right and we didn’t have anybody else. We had thrown everybody and today was my turn and I just went as far as I could.”
Waddell gave way to freshman Andrew McKeever after giving up a single to start the 10th. McKeever walked the first batter and then balked, setting up Carles-Contreras’ sacrifice fly, which won the game.