The No. 4 seed Camp Verde High School baseball team was upset by No. 13 Miami High School 8-7 in the first round of the Arizona Interscholastic Association 2A State Championship on Friday, May 5, at the Goodyear Baseball Complex.
Down 6-0 after two innings, the Cowboys [15-3, 7-1 Central] took a 7-6 lead, only to see the Vandals snatch the game with a two-run seventh inning.
Camp Verde head coach Will Davis, who had little to say after the game, accepted blame for the loss and admitted to making coaching mistakes.
“It wasn’t tough [the comeback], I made some bad coaching calls and I cost us the game, bottom line,” Davis said. “We were the better team and we lost because I made some stupid calls.”
After the Cowboys had just claimed the lead at 7-6, Miami senior Diego Garcia doubled to lead off the seventh inning. Davis then called for the Mondo Garcia to be intentionally walked, putting the go-ahead run on base with no outs.
A bloop single put senior pitcher Carson Zale, who took over for senior starter Darren Franklin after a rough second inning, in a bind. Zale struck out the next two batters, and was one strike from advancing the team to the quarterfinals.
But a comeback line drive flew by Zale’s head and gave the Vandals the 8-7 lead. The Cowboys had just three outs to make their second comeback.
“That’s just how baseball goes. Some days you can play your best game of baseball and you get one hit and it’s at the right time, and there it is,” Howe said. “They had two errors, we had two errors, they didn’t outplay us at all.”
Senior Nathan Pineda walked and senior Wyatt Howe was at the plate representing the last chance, but hit a fly ball to deep center field, forcing an over the shoulder catch from Garcia.
To make the game as close as it was, the Central Region champions rattled off a five-run fourth inning.
Sophomore Dominiq Bruno singled and sophomore Dakota Battise walked. Pineda singled Bruno home to start a streak of Cowboys hits. Senior John Castillo singled to load the bases for Howe, the Central Region co-player of the year.
Howe doubled off the left field wall to clear the bases and bring the deficit to 6-4. Two batters later senior Easton Braden doubled to almost the same spot to switch places with Howe.
“We fought back, that’s always been inside of us,” Howe said. “That need to fight back. It wouldn’t matter if we were down 20 runs, we would still have fought back and made it a good game. There’s not one bit of quit in any one of us.”
The Miami defense held the Cowboys off in the fifth inning, but not in the sixth. Howe doubled again with two outs. Then Zale hit a high pop up that dropped in to tie the game.
From there Vandals senior pitcher Mondo Garcia was rattled, walking the next two batters to load the bases before hitting Franklin to hand the Cowboys the lead.
It almost came full circle for Franklin, who lasted just two innings after giving up five earned runs on three hits with one walk and two hit batters.
The team graduates the farm of nine seniors in Zale, Howe, Braden, Castillo, Pineda, Franklin, Ryan Cain, Zach Wester and Jose Diaz.
“We’ve put in a countless amount of hours, working, sweating. Blood, sweat and tears just over the past four years,” Howe said. “All of us guys together. I wouldn’t trade it over anything not over anybody else. We’re more than just friends, we’re more than just baseball players on a team, we’re family.”