Division I, II baseball titles go to first-time winners

They saved the feel-good stories for last.  A couple of Scottsdale high school baseball teams won state championships yesterday – and it was the first time each school has ever accomplished the feat.

Contrast that with the day before when Red Mountain High School won its fourth straight softball title in Division I and Sunrise Mountain High School wrapped up it fourth championship in the last seven years in Division II. There wasn’t even a little drama associated with either of those games as Sunrise cruised to a 7-0 victory and the Mountain Lions jumped out to a 9-1 lead to put that game away early.

However, Notre Dame Prep squeezed out a 2-1 win over Sunnyslope High School last night for its first state baseball championship and Desert Mountain High School needed a clutch single with two outs in the eighth inning to notch a 4-3 victory over Chaparral High for its first-ever.

Then add to this Rocky Balboa saga the fact that both Chaparral and Sunnyslope were the defending champs – and third-seeded Notre Dame was even ‘knocked out’ in the opening round, losing to Ironwood Ridge High School, and had to work its way to the title game through four games in the losers bracket.

And, to make the story just a little more poignant, the Notre Dame Saints had been to the state championship game three times in the previous five years, coming away each time with the runner-up’s consolatory pat on the back.

But not this time.  The Saints, behind solid pitching from Austin Schnabel, got an early lead and held on to it to book their 30th win of the season and their first title.  Schnabel struck out eight and gave up just one walk in a complete game in which the fifth-seeded Vikings (28-5) managed to get just three runners on base during the game at Camelback Ranch in Glendale.

Sunnyslope’s only run came in the fourth, after NDP had gone up 2-0, and it came courtesy of a wild pitch by Schnabel.  The Saints scored in the second when a Hunter Bross double scored Duncan Morfitt, and in the next inning when a single by Ryan Scott brought Kobie Foppe across home plate.

And it was a simple little single that helped Desert Mountain to its Division I title, when David Greer lined a single past first base in the eighth inning of a tie game to score Michael Salazar from second.  The senior’s crucial hit, which came with two out, proved to be the biggest of the night – and maybe a high school career – since it nailed down the 4-3 win to give Coach Brian Stephenson a state championship in his first year in charge of the program.

Desert Mountain, the tournament’s top seed and favorite to win it this year, got on top right out of the chute, scoring three runs in the first inning.  But Chaparral came back to tie it up with runs in the first, second, and sixth innings.

The sixth was Chaparral’s chance to overtake the Wolves.  Colter Kilgour pushed across the tying run with a single, but the inning ended with bases loaded when Chris Nimtz grounded out to end the rally.

Greer, who took the mound in the seventh inning to relieve Cody Erickson, finished the night in a 3-for-5 performance at the plate that included a double.

In a do-it-all effort in the season finale, he was also credited with the win after holding the Firebirds scoreless in two innings of work, striking out four in the process.