After starting its Grand Canyon Region schedule 6-0, the Mingus Union High School baseball team dropped its two contests in the final frames with Flagstaff High School on April 11 and Thursday, April 13, and no longer controls its own destiny.
The Marauders [11-3, 6-2 Grand Canyon] lost 5-3 on April 11 before a last-inning meltdown saw them lose 14-6 on April 13, and are now tied with Flagstaff for first place in the region with four games to go.
“They need to do better on the off days, they got away from their work ethic,” Mingus head coach Bob Young said. “We won a bunch of games in a row and guys start patting themselves on the back.”
The equation was simple, a lack of timely hitting throughout plus a lack of good pitching in the latter innings turned into two losses.
During the first matchup, the teams held one another in check. Neither side got more than one baserunner on in any given inning, except for Mingus in the top of the first.
Flagstaff struck first in the fourth inning, converting consecutive singles into a 1-0 lead. Marauders sophomore Tyree Kim singled home junior Andrew Kulis to knot the game in the sixth, but the Eagles scored four runs in the bottom half of the frame.
A leadoff walk got the ball rolling, and Mingus junior Tyler Kelly took the mound, who struck out his first batter. However Flagstaff strung hits together to open the lead.
Kelly made it 5-3 on a two-run home run in the seventh, but it was too little, too late. Seven Marauders baserunners were stranded on base.
On April 13 at home, Mingus senior Gus Henley tied the game on an RBI single to plate Kelly in the bottom of the sixth inning. But this time two walks to start the seventh put Mingus in a bind.
“Our lack of success came from not pitching well at the end of games,” Young said. “The inning opened with a walk and that just kills us. We know what we’ve got to do. Walking people in the late innings, you can’t do that and it wound up costing us.”
The Eagles got more free bases than hits en route to the eight-run frame. Four walks and a hit batter strung along the scoring streak, reviving it after a strikeout saw Mingus just one out away from going to bat.
Even without getting a runner on base in its final effort, the Marauders left eight runners on base, and across both games, managed only one hit with runners in scoring position.
“It’s been a problem all year, even when we score lots of runs,” Young said. “We left runners on base and their pitchers did a really good job of mixing up their pitches and their defense made plays.”
A bright spot for the No. 5 team in Conference 4A was its defense, which committed only one error between the losses.
“I think our defense is really good,” Young said. “Our pitchers had two bad innings and unfortunately it came at the wrong time.”
Mingus must win its final four games of the season and hope that the Eagles do not in order to take the outright regional title. With the wins, Flagstaff holds the head-to-head tiebreaker.
The Marauders hosted Prescott High School on Monday, April 17, going down 4-0 after the second en route to a 6-1 loss. They next play in a doubleheader at 1 and 3 p.m. Saturday, April 22, at home to Lee Williams High School.