After beating Valley Christian Academy [3-1] in a thrilling 2A conference state semifinal game Friday, May 14, the Camp Verde High School baseball team was unable to keep the Cinderella slipper on and lost to Bourgade Catholic High School, 6-5.
The state championship game Saturday, May 15, at Peoria Sports Complex was filled with drama but Bourgade Catholic’s Eric Martinez, a big left-handed hurler who pitched the last three innings to earn a win, took all the fun out of if for the Cowboys, striking out five of the final nine outs to get his team a title.
“We didn’t have a dominating player. That big kid they had, he was pretty good; he hit and he pitched. He was a force. We have a bunch of good kids but not a dominating player and it made the difference,” first-year Camp Verde Head Coach Steve Hicks said.
Martinez certainly made the difference in the state championship game as the Cowboys couldn’t seem to catch up to his fastball.
To start the game, Bourgade Catholic was able to put up three runs on the board in the top of the second inning, chasing Cowboys starting pitcher Tanner Rezzonico from the game after only 1? innings pitched.
Hicks brought in senior Mike Boler who started three double plays in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings of the 3-1 win over Valley Christian the day before from shortstop.
Boler pitched the seventh to earn the save against Valley Christian after Curtis Hawk was outstanding, going six innings and allowing only one run.
In Saturday’s game, however, Boler was being asked to go more than just one inning and wound up doing a decent job.
“We were hoping Tanner [Rezzonico] was going to give us a little more but Mike [Boler] did a great job. We knew this was a good hitting team. I didn’t want to bring in Mike this early,” Hicks said.
At the plate, Camp Verde managed 10 hits on Bourgade Catholic pitching, but only one against the lefty Martinez in the last three innings.
“We had to fight through it. We did our best. That’s pretty much it,” sophomore catcher Andy Minner said after the game.
In the bottom of the second inning before Martinez entered the game on the mound, Hawk hit a towering home run into the left field bullpen to make it a 3-1 game, proving to everyone in the other dugout Camp Verde wasn’t going away.
Bourgade Catholic made it 5-2 in the top of the third but the Cowboys rallied for three more in the bottom of the third to tie it, 5-5.
Taylor Matthews and Aaron Stutzman singled, putting runners on for Minner who singled to bring in Matthews. A few errors later, it was tied 5-5.
Matthews and Stutzman were a combined 5-8 on the day at the plate while the rest of the team was 5-22.
In the top of the fifth, sophomore center fielder Cody Rayburn had a bead on a line drive to the gap, caught the ball at first, but then dropped it to allow Bourgade Catholic to put a runner on third with no outs.
The next batter for the Golden Eagles grounded out to second, scoring the run to take a 6-5 lead, which wound up being the final.
“We did everything possible to win, but we came up short. We had high expectations but we never thought we would be here. It was a privilege,” Boler said.
Over the next few days, the 21-9 Cowboys will look back at this season and be disappointed in the outcome but over time, they will be proud of what they accomplished.
When asked if his team actually thought they would get to the 2A state title game when they started practice three-plus months ago, Hicks had an interesting answer.
“Well, I think it’s always the goal; there are always variables to get here. You always come up against good teams. We beat good teams all year long, we’ve grown, we’ve become better players, better people, more mature and we’re growing ... that’s why we’re here,” Hicks said.
“We knew we could beat any team, but there’s a lot of good teams. When you get to the playoffs any team can win it,” he continued.
“Any team” almost did.
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