PEORIA--The scouting reports said it would be a high scoring game, but nobody predicted a 19-18 win for the Cowboys against St. Johns in the second round of the 2A baseball state playoffs Friday.
Pitch after pitch, hit after hit, Camp Verde proved they were the better team through a war of attrition. Scorekeeper Tori Mathews put in work.
The Cowboys jumped out to an initial, sizable lead. They were ready for the game, and after two innings they led 13-0. Jesse Fullbright hit two home runs in the early offensive explosion (one inside-the-park and one over the fence).
Gavin Collins got the start for the 'Boys and he was dealing. The Redskins couldn't touch him, and he was throwing hard, but at some point in the third or the fourth inning Collins slowed down a bit and lost some of his control.
The game started at 4 p.m. and the sun was doing its normal Phoenix-area thing: burning everyone to a crisp and draining energy from everyone in direct sunlight. Collins was tired from the intense heat, and his heater wasn't as fast.
CV Head Coach Steve Hicks took Collins out after a Redskin hit a grand slam.
"I blew it, I can't believe it," said Collins to a teammate as he hunched over on the bench, dejected.
Inserted was Fullbright and his wicked curve.
Fullbright had been hit in the face on a bad hop earlier in the game while playing second base. His right cheek swelled up and he was in obvious pain, but he played through it and never complained about it. His time on the mound was short-lived as the Redskins had gained a lot of momentum and they weren't slowing down.
Doug Ashley followed Fullbright on the mound, then Austin Bower took over for him.
As a senior, Bower showed leadership to get his team through some trouble. His stats might not look impressive for this game, but no pitcher had impressive stats in this game. His poise and confidence on the mound didn't go unnoticed.
Throughout the game, the Cowboys never lost the lead completely, but the Redskins made a respectable comeback.
Camp Verde was tested in every aspect of the game and they performed in all of them.
Going in the seventh inning the Cowboys were up by two runs. They knew they needed more scores to win.
Ashley came up with the lone RBI of the seventh inning for the Cowboys to increase the lead to three.
Senior Tanner Rezzonico was given the ball to pitch the final three outs, but after two runs scored, only one out was recorded. The tying run was on second, and Rezzonico was pulled and moved to first.
In all, five players for Camp Verde threw pitches in the game, but there were five pitching changes. How is that possible you ask? Gavin Collins reentered the game to close.
"My arm feels good, coach," said Collins.
With all the pressure of the game, and indeed the entire season, it was Collins' opportunity at redemption. One of his strongest attributes is confidence, and Collins stepped to the mound like he owned it.
Externally he had nerves of steel, but internally he was feeling the pressure.
"It was the scariest moment of my life," said Collins. "I didn't want to blow it. I had thoughts in my head of a little blooper and the runner on second scoring, but I couldn't let that happen."
The final out was hit to Rezzonico at first and all he had to do was step on his bag.
"I can't remember coaching a game like that," said Hicks. "We were way up and they just kept coming back, we couldn't shut them down. We had one pitcher that could shut them down--Gavin. The other guys did OK, but Gavin was the only one who could shut them down. I'm really proud of our guys and the way we hit the ball. St. Johns had a good pitcher. Our guys are growing up, all of them, it was great to see."
The Cowboys advanced to the third round to play three-seeded Valley Christian Saturday night.
Would there be more magic?Pitching
Gavin Collins: 4 IP, 7 K, 8 ER, (Win and Save)
Jesse Fullbright: 5-6, 2 HR, double, 4 RBI
Kody Rayburn: 5-6, 3 RBI
Tanner Rezzonico: 2-6, triple, 2 RBI
Andy Minner: 4-6, 2 RBI
Doug Ashley: 2-5, game clinching RBI
Taylor Hicks: 1-5, 2 RBI