The parents of Mingus Union’s senior baseball players were more than forgiving.
Yes, some of their sons forgot to tell them that Thursday’s regular season finale against Sinagua was senior recognition day. And yes, the customary parent introductions and give-the-pretty-rose-to-mom ceremonies didn’t really transpire until well after the final out.
But the moms and dads understood that their boys had other things on their minds – like finishing out a perfect run through the Grand Canyon Region schedule and getting ready to make a charge at a league tournament championship and state title.
The proud parents watched a focused Mingus squad take it to Sinagua 12-2 in a game called after five innings because of the mercy rule. The Marauders, ranked first in 4A for the past month, conclude the regular season with a 10-0 region record and a 27-2 overall mark. Both are school records.
“We just came out focused and ready to play,” said coach Brad Grauberger. “We’re tough to beat when we’re that focused. I can’t remember the last time we beat them by 10 runs twice in a season.”
Sinagua traditionally gives the Marauders problems in at least one meeting each year. Last spring, the Mustangs derailed number-one ranked Mingus on the final day of the regular season 10-4, and the Marauders never seemed to fully recover.
But Mingus Union’s class of 2002 made sure there would be no Sinagua stumble this time. Seniors Albert Rodriguez, Rob Maine, Pat Lawler and Devlin McCarty combined for six of the team’s 11 hits.
Lawler tied a school record with his 10th home run of the season – a sky ball in the first inning that landed on the roof of a building beyond left centerfield. Rodriguez earned the pitching victory – his seventh in 11 appearances.
Maine scored three runs, and McCarty made some great defensive plays from third base. The team’s fifth senior, Jake Olson, enjoyed a few trips around the bases as a courtesy runner.
“This is what our whole season was based on, this game,” Lawler said afterward. “That was our first goal of the season – to go 10-0. (The Sinagua loss) just shut us down at the end of last year.”
The Mustangs had a pretty good game plan going in this time around. They went after Rodriguez aggressively at the plate. Defensively, they started a slower-speed pitcher and then brought in their ace, fastballer Brian McFall, after a couple of innings.
Sinagua strung together three singles in the top of the first and took a 1-0 lead. But a nice throw from left field to McCarty after the third hit resulted in a putout that ended the frame.
The Marauders quickly regained the momentum in the bottom of the first when leadoff man Justin Wombacher got aboard after getting beaned and Lawler drilled what was likely his longest homer of the year.
He has now tied Travis Whelan, who hit 10 dingers during the 1999 season.
“As soon as I saw the pitch, I could tell it was a changeup,” Lawler said of his home run moment. “I just swung hard at it, and it felt good.”
Mingus had a 3-2 lead and the bases loaded in the third when McFall entered. But rather than confound the Marauders, the pitching change actually seemed to energize them.
McCarty beat out an RBI single for a 4-2 lead. Junior Trey Morrison, back from injury, hit a fielder’s choice ball for an RBI. Andrew Coffey singled, and Corey Lay blooped a hit into right field for another RBI and a 6-2 lead.
The Marauders carried a 9-2 advantage into the bottom of the fifth. Paul Vocca led off with a single. Wombacher then moved him over with a double. Maine grounded out at first, and Lawler stepped to the plate with the potential to end the game – and break the school’s HR record – with one swing of the at-bat.
But Sinagua coaches opted to intentionally walk Lawler, a move that infuriated McFall, and McCarty and Morrison got to be game-ending heroes instead. McCarty singled home a run, and Morrison crushed a double that drove in the final two scores.
Game over. The seventh region foe of the season goes down via the 10-run mercy rule.
“It’s good for our confidence,” Rodriguez said. “We were trying not to let (a late-season lapse) happen again.”
Rodriguez struck out eight and allowed five hits and a walk to earn the pitching victory. As he has had to a few times this season, the senior bounced back well after struggling through a rough early inning. Rodriguez struck out two in a row to end the second frame after Sinagua scored its second run.
“That was a super job by Albert,” Grauberger said. “His change-up was really working.”
As a reward for winning the region, Mingus will get a bye from Tuesday’s first round GCR tournament action. The Marauders will play the Page-Flagstaff winner in Thursday’s semifinals at home at 3:30 p.m. The GCR championship is Friday at 3:30.
Though no Mingus diamond team has ever won 27 games at the 4A level, the Marauders are hoping to finish with 33 victories – that, of course, would mean the school could hang its first state championship banner in baseball.
“We’re still not satisfied,” Rodriguez said. “We’re putting (the Sinagua win) behind us now. It’s just another game to us.”
Sinagua 1 0 1 0 0 — 2
Mingus 2 1 3 3 3 — 12
WP: Albert Rodriguez
LP: R. Contreras
Highlights: Rodriguez struck out eight for his seventh victory of the season. Pat Lawler hit a school-record tying 10th season home run in the first inning. Mingus broke the school record for baseball wins in a season with its 27th triumph.