Ninety feet is the perfect distance between bases, but on Thursday afternoon it must have felt more like 90 miles for Mountain Pointe.
The Pride lost 6-5 to two-time defending state champion Chaparral in the Division I consolation bracket at Tempe Diablo Stadium when the Firebirds scored three runs in the bottom of the six for the win.
It might have never come to that if Mountain Pointe didn't leave five runners stranded at third base.
Throughout the season the Pride has driven in that run so many times, but that last 90 feet wasn't to be against Chaparral.
“Baseball sounds simple — you get them on, you get them over, you get them in, but... you’re not going to score them 100 percent of the time,” Mountain Pointe coach Brandon Buck said. “Obviously you’d like to do that.”
Maybe the hat on Sam Messina’s head is less about uniform attire and more to cover the continuous discoloration of his hair.
The ride continues for the Chaparral on Saturday against Tucson to see who plays Desert Mountain in the title game, but not without some more drama.
The Firebirds have made a habit of rallying from deficits throughout this postseason and are now a win away from returning to the state championship game.
“(My hair’s) turning gray,” said Messina, the Chaparral coach. “Grayer by the minute.”
Collin Gabel was the hero, lacing a 2-0 fastball into left field to drive in Andrew Shaps for the go-ahead run. All three Firebirds runs in the sixth inning were unearned after third baseman Michael Weaver threw wide to second base on a potential inning-ending double play ball.
The game went back and forth early until the Pride went ahead 5-3 on a two-run triple in the bottom of the fourth by Weaver. Jorge Carrazco settled down on the mound in the middle innings and Mountain Pointe seemed on its way to the victory.
Chaparral right-hander Michael Diamond got a double play to extinguish a two-on, one-out threat from the Pride in the top of the sixth, which set up the rally in the bottom of the frame.
The Pride scored five runs but stranded nine runners, including five at third base.
Gabel didn’t start the game but entered in the second inning. Messina did not want to elaborate on why he didn’t start, but Gabel made up for lost time once he entered the contest.
He finished the game 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs. In his first at-bat, Gabel tried calling timeout before the first pitch of the at-bat. It wasn’t granted, and he instead drove the pitch into left for an RBI single.
“I realized as the pitcher was starting to throw the ball that obviously the umpire wasn’t going to give it to me,” Gabel said. “He did hang a curveball, so I got a good swing on it.”
Weaver had an impressive game for Mountain Pointe at the plate, finishing 3-for-3 with two doubles, a triple and three RBIs.