Sabino earned is second consecutive state championship under coach Shane Folsom and the Sabercats won their third title overall with a 12-8 win over Buckeye Odyssey Institute on Monday at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
The Sabercats (16-5) withstood a late rally by Odyssey Institute, which scored eight runs in the sixth and seventh innings after trailing 12-0 and facing a run-rule loss in the bottom of the sixth.
“We’re very resilient, and yeah, I got a little nervous there, but we built a nice lead,” Folsom said. “Give Odyssey Institute credit. They battled. I’m just proud of our kids. We had a game plan and we executed it.”
Sabino played to their identity all season of being patient at the plate and manufacturing runs by making the opposing pitchers work deep into counts. The Sabercats had 12 hits, 11 of them singles, and the Sabercats tallied eight walks.
They played in their third consecutive state championship game. The Sabercats defended their 2019 state championship (spring sports were canceled last year because of COVID-19). Their 2018 title was stripped from them by the AIA because of alleged recruiting violations, a sanction that was contested by the school and TUSD.
Sabino won its first state title in 1997 under coach Mike Bejarano.
“I think the big thing is we’ve created a winning atmosphere, and we’ve had a lot of the younger kids with us on this run here so they can see what it’s like and know what it’s like,” Folsom said. “We’ve done that before. When (senior) Jake Wiltshire was a sophomore, he started in the state title game after Preston Clifford was hurt in the semifinals.
“Jake’s been there, done that. We’ve tried to do that with a lot of our young guys. We expect a lot out of them in the future and we bring them along for the ride.”
Senior right-hander Tyler Welsh (5-1) earned the victory pitching six innings and allowing eight hits with two strikeouts and four walks. He also was one of three Sabercat batters who had multiple hits, going 2 for 5.
The others with more than one hit were Nathan Ortiz (3-for-4 with a run and RBI) and Wiltshire at the leadoff spot (2 for 4 with a run and two RBIs).
Sabino starting pitcher Tyler Welsh pitched five shutout innings, before Odyssey began mounting a comeback. Sabino holds on for 12-8 win pic.twitter.com/D0f1l8AC37
— Richard Obert (@azc_obert) May 18, 2021
“(Welsh) has been big for us all year,” said Folsom, who added that the pitcher has improved recently since ditching contact lenses for eyeglasses. “He’s been huge at the plate and been one of our top hitters. Since he got his glasses, he’s been money. If he wore those glasses all year, his stats would have been better.”
Entering the game, Welsh had a 3.68 ERA in 40 innings with 47 strikeouts and 17 walks. He was batting .339.
Ryan Draper relieved Welsh, who reached 97 pitches, in the top of the seventh.
The Sabercats’ championship in baseball occurred a few hours after the school’s softball team also claimed its second consecutive 3A state title with a 4-1 win over Payson at Hillenbrand Stadium.
🏆🏆🏆SABINO WINS!!!🏆🏆🏆 pic.twitter.com/AgKS2Yt1dc
— Sabino Baseball (@sabinobatcats) May 18, 2021
Sabino appeared as if it could run-rule Odyssey Institute taking a 12-0 lead in the top of the sixth on RBI singles by Ortiz, Michael Buchmann and Wiltshire.
The Minotaurs rallied for five runs in the bottom of the sixth to avoid the 10-run run-rule.
Sabino took control of the game with a five-run second inning highlighted by a two-run double by Dylan Bradford. The Sabercats scored their other three runs following two walks with the bases loaded and on a wild pitch.
Bradford finished 1 for 3 with two RBIs and Cris Miranda was 1 for 4 with two RBIs.
Folsom added that the three-season run playing in the championship can be attributed to Sabino’s culture of building relationships between the players by playing practically year-round in workouts, summer leagues, fall and winter baseball and then the spring season.
“They build that team chemistry and that team bond, and as coaches, that’s something we want them to have, but that’s something they have to kind of do on their own,” Folsom said. “These guys are a real close, tight-knit team. With all the COVID stuff in the fall, we weren’t allowed on our campus, so we’d go out three days a week to Palo Verde Park, with not the best conditions, and we would go out there and we’d take ground balls and we would get our work in.
“The kids did what they needed to do to win and it has paid off.”
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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