Maricopa High School’s baseball team gave up only one earned run in second-round play of the state tournament, but five errors let in six more.
The Rams lost to seventh-seed Sahuarita 7-1 Saturday afternoon in Surprise. Maricopa was ranked 10th in the Division III tourney.
The loss ended a fine season for MHS, which posted a 16-13 record. Outside of tournaments, the team was 13-5.
“We have a lot of things to look back on and be proud of,” head coach Andrew Pollak said.
The last time the team reached the state tournament was 2007. The last time the team reached the second round was 2004.
The team had a goal of getting the MHS program back to state despite a lackluster 2015 season. Pollak said many of the seniors came up through the program and had “100-percent buy-in” on that objective.
They also had the added inspiration of playing for their late teammate Nate Ford. Though the team was “bummed out” at Saturday’s loss, Pollak said they were proud to finish among the top 16 Division III teams in the state.
Against Sahuarita, the Rams tied the game 1-1 in the top of the second inning when senior Chad Nachtweh’s sacrifice fly knocked in sophomore Carter Paine.
“We definitely had our chances, but we weren’t able to capitalize on them,” the coach said.
After Paine pitched out of a bases-loaded jam, Sahuarita had only a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the fifth inning. For Maricopa, the game turned into a mess in every way.
Untidy field play helped Sahuarita score three more runs before lightning on the horizon brought all playoff games in the complex to a halt.
Official rules require a 30-minute delay for a lightning sighting. With every subsequent lightning bolt, the 30-minute clock starts over. The continued lightning and subsequent rain had most baseball players sitting in their buses for nearly an hour.
The resumption of play did not help the Rams. Sahuarita scored another run before Paine got out of the fifth inning. Maricopa junior Jackson Stensgard finished the game on the mound, allowing an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth.
Stensgard had three hits in the game, including a double. Paine hit a triple and a single, and senior Ivan Herrera had a single. Paine struck out three, Stensgard one.
MHS baseball is losing five senior starters but has a deep selection of underclassmen moving up, including freshman Nico Bandin. Several players can shift from the outfield or the infield to the mound.
“We just knew that our players could also pitch, and we were excited about that flexibility,” Pollak said.
He hopes this season will be a precursor of good things to come for the Rams.
“It was a blast,” Pollak said.