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Estrella goes 3-2 in home tournament
Submitted by Casey Pritchard on Wed, 04/12/2017 - 12:00am
Wolves’ 2 losses come in extra innings
Estrella Foothills could have easily been unbeaten in the Wolves Classic, its home tournament played at the Goodyear Ballpark training fields, last week, but a pair of extra-inning losses were its demise.
The Wolves scored 51 combined runs in five games, but lost 9-7 in eight innings to Phoenix Northwest Christian April 7, and 11-10 to Cottonwood Mingus April 8.
“Both losses were to two really good clubs,” Estrella coach Pat McCubbins said. “Northwest Christian ended a 14-game wining streak [losing the tournament championship], and Mingus is a top-five team in 4A. We were very proud of the boys all week long.
“We hit the ball very well, we executed very well. When we made mistakes, for the most part, offensively, they were aggressive mistakes. We didn't get caught sleeping, per se. We were able to overcome it and battle back.”
In the tournament finale against Mingus, Estrella built a 6-0 lead before things fell apart in the fifth. Ryan Vanderhei looked good on the mound through the first four innings, but lost command in the fifth.
“This was game six for us this week, so we were thin [on pitching],” McCubbins said. “[Vanderhei] was at 83 pitches. He was out of gas going into that inning, and he started leaving balls up, then he tried to compensate and missed down.”
Mingus wound up scoring seven runs in the inning, taking a 7-6 lead. The Marauders added to their advantage in the sixth, getting a home run and run-scoring single to make it 9-6.
The Wolves didn't go away though. Javier Vargas led off the bottom of the sixth with a triple, and following a walk, Tyler Godfrey doubled to left, scoring two runs to make it 9-8. Justin Williamson followed up with an RBI single to center, tying the game.
“We've been working and working in practice on our offensive approach, and we've gotten better every week in terms of putting balls in play, doing the little things,” McCubbins said. “All in all, I'm very proud of the way they're executing. They're playing with a lot of confidence. The last two months we've seen them grow so much as a team.”
Estrella had a chance to win it in the bottom of the seventh when Vargas bunted for a hit, but he got greedy on the next play, trying to go first to third on a bunt and he was tagged out for the last out of the inning.
In the eighth, each team started with a runner at second base. Mingus was gifted third when the Wolves threw a ball into left field trying to catch the runner at second napping.
“It's understanding when we should and when we shouldn't do that,” McCubbins said. “It's such a fine balance because we're constantly working in practice on finding the next out, and as we continue to grow as a team, it's understand which situations are appropriate and which aren't. That was an aggressive mistake. Probably not a good choice, but an aggressive mistake. It wasn't a lack of hustle by any means.”
That run scored, and the Marauders got a couple of hits to plate a second run, taking an 11-9 advantage into the bottom of the eighth. The Wolves got one back in their turn at bat, and had the tying run at third when the final out was recorded.
“Last night, we didn't roll over, we came back and scored in the last inning, and we did again today,” McCubbins said. “Other than getting the wins, we can't be more pleased with what they're doing.”
Estrella had contributions up and down the lineup all weekend. McCubbins said he was happy that the Wolves got to use the five tournament games to work on their offensive approach as they move forward to the stretch run of the season.
“We continue to learn how to manufacture runs,” McCubbins said. “The first inning [against Mingus], we scored three runs, and two of our ground ball outs scored runs. Just the productivity of what we're doing at the plate is getting better and better.”
The Wolves also got a dazzling play from Sam Cunningham in right field. On a base hit with a runner on second, Cunningham fielded the ball and threw a rifle home to nail a Mingus runner at the plate.
“Sam is one of our top pitchers, and the reason we play him in right field is because of his arm strength,” McCubbins said. “He comes up and makes that tremendous play early, and I think he prevented them from trying to take extra bases as the game went on.”
Estrella's three tournament wins came against Winslow, 8-0, Maryvale, 14-1, and San Tan Valley Combs, 10-4.
Estrella played at Youngker Tuesday. The result was unavailable at press time. The Wolves have five games remaining, four in the 4A Southwest Region. The next one is at 6 p.m. Thursday against Youngker.
Estrella currently sits 24th in the power-points rankings with a 6-6 record. The Wolves are 14-9 overall, and 3-0 in the region.
“I think we're ready to go,” McCubbins said of the stretch run. “The kids came into the year not really knowing what we were going to get as a 4A team, and I think they've established themselves very well. We're excited because I think we can make a run at it. We still have five of the eight conference games, so we're focused on Tuesday. By no means are we looking ahead of Tuesday.”
Casey Pritchard can be reached at email@example.com
or on Twitter @CaseyonSports.
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