With a good crowd on hand the No. 3 Mingus Union High School baseball team was able to escape an upset bid by the visiting No. 14 Seton Catholic Preparatory Sentinels in eight innings, 3-2.
When asked if he expected this kind of effort out of Seton Catholic on Saturday, May 8, in first-round action of the 4A-II conference state playoffs, second-year Mingus Head Coach Bob Young responded with certainty.
“I really was; Seton is a good team. Generally, with power points, the lower seeds are still tough, they played a good schedule and lost some close games. The last three years we’ve had tough first-round games.”
Saturday’s contest made it three years in a row now in which Mingus’ opponent took them to extra innings in a first-round state playoff game.
So far, Mingus is 3-0 in those games and the Marauders are, of course, the two-time defending state champions, leading to the question, is this Mingus team capable of winning an unprecedented third straight title?
After watching senior hurler Shaun McCarty pour his guts out Saturday, that answer would be “yes.”
“Shaun [McCarty] was gutsy. We expected that from him. We knew if we were going to do something this year he had to come up big for us, and he did,” Young said.
Young said he and the coaching staff kept asking McCarty, “Are you OK?” and he always responded with, “I’m fine.”
“If we went to the ninth inning, he would have gone out there for us,” Young said.
McCarty went all eight innings for the Marauders, throwing nearly 120 pitches while keeping the Sentinel bats at bay to give his Mingus offense a chance to win it in the end.
In eight innings, McCarty faced 31 batters and allowed only two earned runs on six hits while walking two and striking out seven.
This is the first game this season McCarty was able to pitch longer than five innings, but don’t read into it too much, as most of those games Mingus 10-run ruled their opponent.
In the bottom of the seventh inning on Saturday, Mingus trailed 2-1 to a Seton Catholic team drooling over the possibility of a first-round upset.
Senior catcher Logan Stewart had other ideas however, leading off the inning with a triple to put the tieing run on third with no outs.
After senior Shawn Rojas struck out, junior middle infielder Cruz Chavez came up big with a double to left center field, scoring Stewart to tie it, 2-2.
McCarty went out in the eighth inning and with his defense behind him, retired the side to give the Mingus bats another chance at winning it.
To start the bottom of the eighth, senior Hunter Zwart doubled down the left field line to put the go-ahead run in scoring position with no outs.
Junior Ronald Morones stepped to the plate next, knowing full well what he had to do.
“Everyone in the world knew he was bunting right there. With their bunt defense they put on with the first baseman charging, we teach to push the bunt past the pitcher and he did exactly that,” Young said.
Morones squared to bunt early, and while the Seton Catholic first baseman charged, their second baseman covered first.
Morones couldn’t have rolled it out there any better, pushing it past the pitcher and as the first baseman slipped, the ball skipped right past them both, allowing Zwart to scamper home to win it, 3-2.
The RBI bunt single sent Mingus fans into a frenzy and the Marauders players charged the field with excitement.
The 23-6 Marauders will now look forward to playing Liberty High School in the second round of the 4A-II state playoffs Wednesday, May 12.
Mingus will send Zwart to the mound against the No. 6 Lions with a first pitch scheduled for 4 p.m. at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
Liberty defeated No. 11 Cactus High School in its first-round game, 5-2, and is 22-6 overall this season.