GLENDALE - Small ball is very much part of the Mountain Pointe baseball team's arsenal.
After scoring 333 runs in the first 30 games of the season it wasn't always needed, but it was there when the Pride needed it..
The Pride eeked out a 2-1 win Saturday over Gilbert in the Pool B semifinals in the Class 5A Division I state tournament at Camelback Ranch Stadium.
"That's the reason we go through those drills because you never know when you are going to need it," Mountain Pointe coach Brandon Buck said. "Credit the bottom of our lineup because they came through when we needed them."
Kevin Cron was at center stage once again, but it might have been all for naught if senior outfielder Quinn Tucker wasn't able to put down a 1-2 sacrifice bunt after two weak attempts in the fifth inning.
After Brantley Bell and Sam Kingery, who had three hits, led off the inning with singles in a 1-1 tie, the left-handed Tucker placed a bunt down the first-base line that only pitcher Stephen Tarpley was able to field to advance the runners into scoring position.
"I had two terrible (bunt) attempts, but I came through with the pressure was on," Tucker said. "It didn't need to be that hard. It was great showing my teammates that they can count on me."
Junior shortstop Scott Kingery followed with a single to left off Tarpley (2-2) for the 2-1 lead. The left-handed USC commit limited the damage to that after getting Jordan Kipper to ground out, intentionally walking Cron and getting Joey Curletta to the hit it 400 feet to center field before it was hauled in by Josh Swift on the warning track.
Tarpley, who drove in the Tigers' only run in the first inning, went the distance in the loss as he had the Mountain Pointe hitters taking awkward swings all game. He finished with eight strikeouts and no walks in six innings while allowing 10 hits and two earned runs against a team that averages 11.1 runs a game.
"He is coming off an (knee) injury where he didn't know if he was going to pitch at all this season," Gilbert coach Matt Gutierrez said. "The way he came out today and handled them other than a pitch to Cron that never should have been thrown he did a really good job there. He held down their good hitters and it was the bottom of the order that hurt us."
Cron was his usual dominant self at the plate and on the mound, showing about as much emotion that is legally allowed.
The first sign of his emotion came with a great bat toss after connection on his 26th home run of the season. He crushed it over the brick wall that sits behind the grass berm in left field and it might have come close to hitting the Dodgers' front office building some 500 feet away by the time it got done rolling.
"When there is a big game I am going to show emotion," he said. "Whether it is a close pitch or a big strikeout I am going to do what it takes to win my senior year. I was pumped up and it showed a little bit today."
On the mound he improved to 7-1 on the season with a complete-game, six-hitter. He struck out 10 with a walk and a hit batsmen. Tarpley drove in Nathan Causey, who doubled (although it appeared to be a home run) for the only Gilbert run, but Cron was fighting himself a little early on.
The inning might have had a more damage if it weren't for a great running catch by Tucker when he tracked down a ball ripped to the warning track in right by Dustin Peterson. They ended up getting a double play as Gilbert's Drew Stankiewicz, who singled to start the game, rounded second and was doubled up.
"That was a huge play," Buck said. "That inning could have been much tougher if we don't get the double play there."
Cron was hit pretty hard the first couple of innings but settled in after that.
"The first couple of innings he was missing the zone a little, but then he hit that home run and his confidence grew even more," catcher Tony Balderrama said. "When he gets on that mound, and gets that certain look in his eye there is no way we are going to get beat."
The win puts the Pride (26-5) in the state semifinals for the third time in four years and they won't play again until Thursday at 4 p.m. at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
The Tigers (19-12) fall to the loser's bracket and take on No. 3 Desert Ridge, which has won two straight state titles, at 4 p.m. at Camelback Ranch on Tuesday. The winner advances to face the Pride, having to beat Mountain Pointe twice in order to get to the state title game.
Gutierrez said the team will be focused come Tuesday.
"This team believes in themselves," he said. "We handled (Mountain Pointe) twice and they beat us by one run twice. It is one of those things at this point there is no ‘Good job today' type things. We're mad."
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