The last time Pusch Ridge lost a baseball game, Doug Jones was the team's coach.
The man who skippered the Lions to the 2A state title last year is coaching in San Diego, but the winning culture he instilled at Pusch Ridge lives on.
During the regular season, the Lions went 19-0 under first-year coach Mark Frithsen. As the #2 seed, the Lions earned a first-round bye. Then, the Lions won a pair of games over the weekend, 7-1 over San Manuel and 15-5 over Winkelman Hayden, to advance to next Friday's semi-final game at 3:30 p.m. with sixth-seeded Bourgade in Peoria.
Matt Horrigan had three hits in Friday's game, including a triple to get things started. Alec Erceg singled him home. After a walk, a fielder's choice brought in Erceg. After a hit batsman, Andrew Haines hit a sacrifice fly to give Pusch Ridge a 3-0 lead.
Owen Bertelsen pitched six innings. He had six strikeouts and two walks.
"He was throwing well," Frithsen said. "He kept the ball down. That's what I wanted him to do."
The Lions scored two more in the second, as Horrigan singled, Erceg was hit by a pitch, then Aaron Vaughn walked to load the bases. Bertelsen hit a sacrifice fly. Then, with runners on second and third, Erceg came home on a double steal, and Vaughn stole third.
"We knew we'd be rusty," Frithsen said. "We'd had a week off."
Coming back the next day, the Lions were no longer rusty. They pummeled Winkelman Hayden 15-5 in a five-inning, shortened game on Saturday.
The Lions scored six runs in the first inning. Horrigan and Erceg opened with doubles. Vaughn hit a triple, and Bertelsen singled him in.
"We hit in the cage before the game," Frithsen said.
Erceg singled, doubled and tripled. Vaughn had three hits also. Horrigan added two more hits.
Vaughn pitched five innings and gave up three earned runs.
Hayden rallied to cut the deficit to 9-5, before the Lions put it away. They scored two more and had a 13-5 lead when Tyler Goodwillie stepped to the plate with a 13-5 lead and runners on second and third. He singled home two runs, and the Lions had the run-shortened, five-inning win.
What are the Lions chances this weekend? Is a repeat championship game berth a sure thing?
"We're not better than any team here," Frithsen said. "We're just as good as anyone here."
"It's what you do on the field."
The Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks baseball team defeated Tempe Marcos de Niza 7-3 in second-round action of their two-loss elimination tournament in 5A-II play.
Alex Worden, Zach Sweety, Trey Stine and Steven Still all hit doubles for the Nighthawks. Will Meyer and Clay Matthews hit triples. The Nighthawks trailed 3-2 before scoring four in the fifth inning to take the lead. On Saturday, the Nighthawks suffered their first state loss, bowing 4-1 to Phoenix Horizon. They could muster but six hits in the game.
Pusch Ridge softball
In softball, the 2A playoffs opened for Pusch Ridge Christian on Saturday, and the Lions won both games of a doubleheader to reach Friday's quarterfinals against #3 Willcox at 8 p.m. at Phoenix's Rose Mofford Complex.
Corey Ward blanked Chandler Valley Christian 7-0 in the first game, striking out seven batters. Sara Majors was on base every time, and the Lions made no errors.
In their second-round win, the Lions defeated San Manuel, 16-11.
In other softball action, Marana lost at Sabino, 10-2, despite a home run by Alex Steinmehl.
Ironwood Ridge lost two of three to get eliminated in their two-loss elimination tournament.