After two years of leaving it up the decimal point, the Desert Vista baseball team removed any doubt about its playoff livelihood with a 7-4 win over Westwood on Wednesday at HoHoKam Stadium to end the regular season.
The Thunder began the morning at No. 22 in the Division I power rankings but after all the scores were updated from Tuesday’s results dropped to 25th, one spot out of the 24-team field.
It fluctuated all day but the Thunder made it a moot point by going out and winning for the fourth time in five games to secure a spot. It is estimated that Desert Vista will finish about No. 20 and looks to be facing someone like No. 13 Boulder Creek on Saturday at 11 a.m. (although No. 15 Mountain Pointe is lurking nearby if the numbers change before the official bracket comes out).
“It’s huge to know that we are going to go out as a senior in the playoffs,” senior Hunter Rodriguez said. “The whole team has been working so hard to get to this point. It feels good.”
Desert Vista (15-13, 12-6) had to show some grit to get the win as Westwood (12-16, 4-15) got to Thunder starter Luke Leftwich early when it plated two runs in the first on a RBI fielder’s choice by Talon Parke and a RBI single by Hever Bueno.
The Thunder answered with three runs in the bottom of the first with RBIs by Drew Cutchall and a two-run double AJ Valencia.
“That gave us momentum for the rest of the game,” Valencia said. “We’ve been down a lot this year and it doesn’t faze us.”
That was clear after the Warriors tied it in the second on a balk by Leftwich forced in a run. Rodriguez hit a two-run single off Westwood starter Nick Schuman (4-6) to help Desert Vista to a 6-3 lead after two innings.
“That’s what these kids do,” Thunder coach Stan Luketich said about the offense responding both times.
Leftwich (5-3) settled in after that and went 4 2/3 innings for the win before giving way to Rodriguez.
Luketich didn’t care about projections or who they might play afterward. After missing last season’s postseason by losing on the final day and barely getting in the year before, the longtime coach is ready to keep the team rolling.
“Since spring break we’ve played good baseball,” he said. “We’ve gotten better each week and that’s what you want to be doing at this time of the year.”
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