Sabino rallies late to beat rival Pusch Ridge in 3A quarterfinals

Sabino was down a run against Pusch Ridge with two outs in bottom of the sixth, it had only one hit over the previous three innings and just one baserunner reached second base out of the previous 14 batters.

Just where Sabino wanted ’em.

Although four outs separated them from elimination, the No. 4-seeded Sabercats (14-5) were ready to “grind it out,” as infielder Tyler Delk put it.

They rallied for three runs without a hit, with two outs in the sixth, to pull out the 6-4 win over the Lions to advance to the 3A state semifinals Thursday against top-seeded Valley Christian at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

Sabino, which had its season cut short last year by COVID-19 after a 9-0 start, has reached the 3A state semifinals with a 14-5 record (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

“I was just trying to keep the game close, and I knew we were going to pull it off,” said senior reliever/shortstop Jake Wiltshire, who got the win pitching two scoreless innings after entering in the top of the sixth with Sabino trailing 4-3.

“I knew we were going to start something.”

Added Washington State-bound centerfielder Dylan Bradford, “It was just a matter of time.”

After pinch-hitter Michael Buchmann led off the sixth inning with a walk and moved to second on a wild pitch, the next two batters struck out.

Wiltshire, a New Mexico State signee, came to the plate and the count became full. He took ball four and walked to first as the go-ahead run.

Bradford then walked to load the bases. Delk followed with another walk to force in Buchmann with the tying run.

A fielding error occurred off the bat of Cris Miranda and Wiltshire and Bradford scored to increase the lead to 6-4.

“This team never ever says ‘die’ and they always find a way to win,” said Sabino coach Shane Folsom, who is 47-11, with a state title in 2019, in his three years with the Sabercats. “I have a great bunch of coaches who help me put this together. Everything you saw today, we work on in practice.

“It doesn’t necessarily happen by accident. We work hard and pound in their heads about being patient at the plate and finding ways to win.”

Sabino beat Pusch Ridge (15-5) for the third time this season having to rally from behind each time.

The Sabercats on Tuesday tallied only four singles, half the amount of hits Pusch Ridge produced. They had seven walks and took advantage of four Pusch Ridge errors, a wild pitch and two batters hit by a pitch.

In an 8-5 win over Pusch Ridge on March 30, Sabino trailed 4-0 at home before rallying for five runs in the second inning.

A day later at Pusch Ridge, the Lions held a 5-1 lead going into the sixth inning but Sabino scored three runs in the sixth and seventh to win 7-5.

In the three wins over the Lions, Sabino had a combined 18 hits with only three going for extra bases.

“We grind it out; we keep the line moving,” said Delk, who also had an RBI single as part of Sabino’s two-run rally in the second on Tuesday to give the Sabercats a 3-2 lead. “We’re a bunch of grinders. We’re a close group of guys. We know each other well.

“We just grind it out until the end.”

Standing in the way of Sabino reaching its third consecutive state title game is a Gilbert Valley Christian team that is 18-1-1, with its only loss against the Sabercats at home.

The Sabercats won 6-5 in eight innings at Valley Christian when they displayed some power with Tyler Welsh belting the game-winning home run.

Valley Christian rallied for two runs in the top of the seventh to win at Sabino 6-4 on April 17.

Spencer Seigworth, a senior right-hander who is committed to Butler, is slated to start for the third time against the Sabercats. He has allowed one earned run in 11 2/3 innings against Sabino, a 0.59 ERA, with 12 strikeouts and three walks. The Sabercats scattered 10 hits against him in the two games.

Wiltshire, a right-hander, will start for Sabino. He pitched in relief both times against Valley Christian, not allowing an earned run in 4 2/3 innings with six strikeouts, three walks and giving up three hits.

“We’ve seen their pitcher, who has throw against us twice already, but they really have not seen Jake Wilshire quite as much,” Folsom said. “There are not gonna be many secrets. They know what we have. We know what they have. We expect a game like this again on Thursday night and we will see if we can move on.”

Pusch Ridge coach Dave Landrith was a catcher at Arizona, playing for Jerry Kindall from 1980-83 (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Pusch Ridge, coached by former Arizona catcher Dave Landrith, was led Tuesday by its Nos. 3 and 4 batters — third baseman Ethan Jones and catcher Isaac Rolon — both of whom went 2 for 4.

Jones singled and later scored on Logan Brown’s double in the third inning that gave the Lions a 4-3 lead.

Welsh, Sabino’s starter, did not allow a runner past second over the next 2 2/3 innings before Wiltshire entered in the sixth.

Pusch Ridge starter Jonathan Carroll had a quality outing allowing one earned run in five innings with five strikeouts, two walks and five hits.


ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District

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