By Raymundo Frasquillo
DUNCAN – Duncan’s baseball season concluded with an 11-6 home loss on the last week of April. The Wildkats final standing improved to No. 17 (3-11 overall, 3-11 power ranking record, minus 9.2677 rating) from the previous season’s No. 28 (5-15, 4-13, minus 11.8527). However, only the top 16 qualified for the post-season. Uniforms were turned in before players exited.
“I was happy with what we were able to do,” Duncan head coach Eric Bejarano said.
Duncan improved considerably from how it had played earlier, having notched nine double-digit losses in the previous 14 games.
The home team went three up and three down three times while the visitors did that once.
Duncan had two runners at second and third twice with two outs, as well as loaded with two outs, but a strike out and a pair of ground outs ended the scoring threats.
Additionally, a double play sent the Wildkats on defense after having runners at first and second with one out.
The Wildkats scored three runs twice, in the third inning to knot the game at 3-3 and in the seventh, but no more. Senior Jeffry Harnish doubled in freshman Chris Smith who had struck out but reached first on a passed ball and senior Stirrup Crawford who was beaned, and scored on a fielding error during the third.
In the seventh, the top third of the lineup crossed the plate. Crawford singled on and stole second, Harnish singled Crawford in and scored on a passed ball, and freshman Cesar Contreras was walked, advanced to second on a passed ball and to third on a sacrifice fly and scored on a wild pitch.
Winkelman Hayden scored once in the second, twice in the third, thrice in the fourth, once in the fifth and four times in the sixth to account for its runs, seven unearned.
The Lobos’ fifth inning run, their seventh of the game, reached first on a walk, advanced to second on a ground out and third on a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch. The final four runs reached first on a single, a fielding error, a beaned batter, and a fielding error. Run number eight crossed the plate on a ground out, number nine on a wild pitch, number ten on a fielding error, and number 11 on a passed ball.
Duncan batted .222 (6-27), fielded .800 (28-35), left eight runners on and committed seven errors, while the visiting Lobos batted .212 (7-33), fielded .903 (28-31), stranded 10 runners and made three errors.
Harnish (2-4, double, 3 RBIs) and Crawford (1-2) both batted .500, Contreras and Smith (double) both .333 (1-3) and senior Dominic Perez .250 (1-4).
Seniors Perez, Crawford, Harnish and Samuel Lacey took the mound for a final time. Starter Perez struck out five, walked three, beaned one and allowed four hits while facing 17 batters during three innings; long reliever Crawford struck out four, walked two, beaned two and yielded two hits while facing 14 batters during two innings; short reliever Harnish beaned one and gave up a hit while facing four batters during 1/3 inning; and closer Lacey struck out four while facing seven batters during 1 2/3 innings.
For Hayden, freshman Jorge Rodriguez batted .667 (2-3, triple, 2 RBIs), senior Ryan Donovan .500 (1-2, RBI), senior Brandon Cruz .333 (1-3), junior Mario Mariscal .250 (1-4, double, RBI) and both seniors Jacob Carrasco and Adrian Encinas (RBI) .200 (1-5).
Mariscal went the distance on the mound, striking out 11, walking four, beaning three and scattering six hits while facing 35 batters.
The Wildkats opened the season at Elfrida with a 10-0 shutout at the hands of the Valley Union Blue Devils (Feb. 24), succumbed 19-1 to the Kearny Ray Bearcats in a region contest (Feb. 25), 12-9 to the San Carlos Braves (Feb. 28), and 10-0 to the Tigers in Saint David (March 3) before posting an 11-6 win over the Apaches in Fort Thomas (March 7).
Duncan fell 12-2 at New Mexico Lordsburg (March 17) and 21-2 to the Superior Panthers (March 22) before an 11-7 win over the Apaches (March 24).
The Wildkats went on another four-game losing streak, 20-0 to the Bearcats at Kearny (March 30), 14-2 to the Blue Devils (April 1), 13-0 to the Lobos at Winkelman (April 4), and 12-2 to the Panthers at Superior in a region contest (April 11).
Duncan’s third win was 9-8 over the Braves at San Carlos (April 13) and the other loss was 4-1 to the Apaches in Fort Thomas during a region contest (April 18).
The Wildkats’ 2015 and 2014 versions both went one-and-done at the state meet and eight of the previous 10 teams qualified, with three consecutive championship game appearances from 2004 through 2006.
However, Duncan played in the present, not the past, during the season finale, doing what it could with what it had. The Wildkats might have been mistaken for being Irish, they were that green at season’s start, suiting up four seniors, two juniors, and six freshmen.
The 2017 state tourney included three of four 1A East Region members and two of Duncan’s other regular season opponents, No. 11 Hayden (8-7 power ranking record, minus 2.5093 rating), No. 5 Saint David (10-5, 1.2560), No. 4 Ray (12-5, 1.4653), No. 3 Valley Union (12-3, 5.3469) and No. 1 Superior (17-0, 16.5062).
Goodyear Baseball Complex was the site of the first three rounds May 5-6 and 12. The first round wins were by Superior, 13-0 over No. 16 Phoenix Valley Lutheran (6-10, minus 9.2084) in five innings; No. 8 Joseph City (9-7, minus 1.1540), 4-1 over No. 9 Williams (10-6, minus 1.4819); No. 5 Saint David, 11-1 over No. 12 Heber Mogollon (7-10, minus 5.9316) in five innings; Ray, 21-0 over No. 13 Rock Point (9-5, minus 6.2334); Valley Union, 21-0 over No. 14 Anthem Prep (6-9, minus 7.3540); Hayden, 16-0 over No. 6 Fredonia (11-1, 0.7989) in five innings; No. 7 California Winterhaven San Pasqual (10-6, minus 0, 2841), 8-0 over No. 10 Ash Fork (10-5, minus 1.5014); and No. 2 Bagdad (16-1, 12.2888), 15-0 over No. 15 Mayer (6-11, minus 8.0381) in five innings.
Advancing following the May 6 quarterfinals were Superior, 12-1 in five innings over Joseph City; Ray, 12-2 in five innings over Saint David; Valley Union, 6-5 over Hayden; and Bagdad, 1-0 over San Pasqual.
The May 12 semifinals resulted in one-run wins for Superior and for Valley Union, 7-6 over Ray and 1-0 over Bagdad, respectively. Superior claimed the title with a 12-8 victory at Surprise Stadium May 13.