Tommy Martinez stands all of 5-foot-6, maybe 5-6 ½ in his cleats, hits ninth in the Mountain Pointe lineup and is just a sophomore.
It would be easy, as the opposing pitcher, to think just pump a fastball past him as he isn’t much bigger than the bat he is holding.
At least that’s the way Martinez feels, and it kind epitomizes Mountain Pointe’s season, as the Pride has a young team that many might have been overlooked to begin the season.
Yet the Pride, behind two big hits by Martinez, advance for the semifinals of the Division I state championship bracket once again with a 5-3 win over rival Desert Vista on Thursday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
“I was going up ready to swing at anything,” Martinez said of his sixth-inning RBI double for an insurance run. “I was expecting a first-pitch fastball. I’m the ninth hitter. He probably thinks I’m nothing.”
Martinez, who also had a game-tying RBI single in the game-changing four-run fifth inning, has caught the attention of the Thunder now.
“Their No. 9 hitter did a good job, and to me, was the difference in the game” Desert Vista coach Stan Luketich said. “So we have to pitch him better.”
Truth be told, as clutch as Martinez was, the Desert Vista defense played a big part in the loss that sends them into Saturday’s consolation game against No. 10 Chaparral at 6:30 p.m. at Phoenix Muni.
The Thunder (20-11 and seeded 22) had four errors in the fifth after two outs to give No. 14 Mountain Pointe (22-7) life to erase a 1-0 lead.
With two outs the Pride’s Taylor Martin lifted a ball to deep right-center field where the two outfielders converged after long runs and it dropped after hitting the glove of Austin Hicks, who might lost the ball in the sun.
Martinez followed a RBI single and the miscue was compounded when hard-luck loser Tyler Viza, who won the first two games of the playoffs in relief, walked Ernie de la Trinidad and Cole Tucker singled on an 0-2 pitch to give Mountain Pointe a 2-1 lead.
It only got worse from there as Brantley Bell’s dribbler led to him being safe when the toss pulled the first baseman off the bag. The inning appeared to be over when Viza (6 IP, 6 h, 5 runs, 1 earned, 1 bb, 6 so) got a groundball to short, but Colby Woodmansee bobbled it.
In his haste to still make a play, he shuffled the ball toward second but it went into short right field to score another run.
“We had a bad defensive inning,” Luketich said. “We played hard but have to play smarter.”
Mountain Pointe starter Zach Cordova, who has two wins and a save in the postseason, did a good job of pitching out of trouble in his 5 plus innings that saw the left-hander allow seven hits, three earned runs with two strikeouts.
The Thunder got the first two runners on in the third and fourth innings, but managed just one run.
“We had opportunities early and scored one run, but we didn’t have very good at bats with runners on base,” Luketich said. “Attribute that to their pitching but you wish we would have had better at-bats.”
The inning he did a great job of managing the base runners came in the fourth after the Thunder’s Michael Popeck hit a ground-rule double to put runners on second and third with no outs, Cordova only gave up one run on a single by Hicks, who was later picked off for the third out.
The sixth started the same way – runners on second and third thanks to a double by Woodmansee – but the Thunder scored only two runs after Brantley Bell relieved Cordova.
“He only gives up one run (in the fourth) in a situation where they could have scored two or three, right there, was huge,” Pride coach Brandon Buck said.
The Pride, who scored all five runs with two outs, have won eight in a row heading into Saturday’s matchup against No. 2 Tucson at Tempe Diablo at 4 p.m. and are on a bit of a roll.
“We are feeling pretty good.” Buck said. “I don’t see us 10-running teams, just because of our age. Those days are kind of over. We are going to battle, put the ball in play and compete.”
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