This time, Lions' baseball took care of its business - The Explorer: Sports

This time, Lions' baseball took care of its business

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Posted: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:34 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

Pusch Ridge Christian Academy's baseball team figured out how to cover all its bases this season.

Last season, after amassing a 21-4 record and sweeping through the 2A South division, the Lions lost to Phoenix Country Day 4-2 in the regional playoffs, eliminating them from state competition.

Pusch Ridge's 2009 record looked similar at 23-3, but the end result was very different.

Pusch Ridge reigned over the 2A South, losing only one regional contest, 7-2 at San Manuel in late March. At that point, no one could know that the Lions and Miners were on a collision course that would determine the state championship, but when May rolled around, that's exactly what happened.

The tournament's May 8 opening saw both schools as #2-seeds, Pusch Ridge in the private school classification and San Manuel in the public.

Both schools won their first two rounds convincingly, with the Lions thumping Tombstone and Bisbee 11-1 and 7-1, and the Miners outplaying Many Farms 16-0 and Miami 10-1.

Both eked out a win in the semifinals, Pusch Ridge winning over Phoenix Bourgade Catholic 6-5 and San Manuel edging Hayden 5-4.

"San Manuel is always a challenge," said Pusch Ridge head coach Doug Jones in an interview earlier this season.

Eight days after the start of the playoffs, and three weeks after the last meeting between the two schools, the Lions and Miners took the field at the Peoria Sports Complex to battle for the 2A state title.

Pusch Ridge didn't take long to light up the scoreboard.

In the top of the first inning, senior catcher Daniel Vavrusa singled to center to score two runs, putting the Lions up 2-0.

"(Vavrusa) is really an asset," said Jones.

The Miners fought back to tie the game 2-2 in the bottom of the first, but that was the last time San Manuel would be on Pusch Ridge's level.

In the top of the second inning, three singles scored three Lion runs, and then, in the third, senior shortstop Joey Degroff cleared the bases with a resounding double, cracking the game wide open 9-2.

Degroff would end the game with four hits and seven RBIs, and Pusch Ridge ended the game in the sixth inning by mercy rule, taking the state crown with a powerful 15-hit, 15-5 victory.

Team chemistry led to the dominant performance, and has been a cornerstone for the Lions since the season opener. It's something Jones said would factor into the team's ability to win.

"A lot of our seniors and juniors have been playing together since junior high," said Jones in March. "So that helps a lot."

While the offense provided much of the evening's entertainment, senior pitcher Dawson Jones pitched a full game, holding sway over the Miners' lineup throughout the evening, and tightening his hold in the final three innings.

Winning a state title is a good way to start the summer break. While Pusch Ridge will miss the senior leadership that led it to the top spot in 2A, don't count the Lions out next season. A solid core of returning contributors will keep Pusch Ridge in the championship conversation, according to Jones.

"(Junior pitcher) Aaron Vaughn has been our number one or two guy for the last couple years," said Jones.

Jones also pointed to Alec Erceg as a heavy contributor on offense.

Sophomore pitcher Owen Bertelson showed a high level of control during his starts this season.

While these considerations might be a long way off, Jones has been good at seeing Pusch Ridge's strengths very early on.

After the Lions' season opener, a nail-biting 8-7 victory over Desert Christian, Jones pointed out a team strength that he thought would carry Pusch Ridge a long way.

"We don't have a lot of rowdy guys," said Jones. "It's just down to business. I like that kind of play, that quiet leadership."

If a state championship is any indicator, it seems safe to say that Pusch Ridge has earned some time to be loud this summer over the Miners' lineup throughout the evening, and tightening his hold in the final three innings.

Winning a state title is a good way to start the summer break. While Pusch Ridge will miss the senior leadership that led it to the top spot in 2A, don't count the Lions out next season. A solid core of returning contributors will keep Pusch Ridge in the championship conversation, according to Jones.

"(Junior pitcher) Aaron Vaughn has been our number one or two guy for the last couple years," said Jones.

Jones also pointed to Alec Erceg as a heavy contributor on offense.

Sophomore pitcher Owen Bertelson showed a high level of control during his starts this season.

While these considerations might be a long way off, Jones has been good at seeing Pusch Ridge's strengths very early on.

After the Lions' season opener, a nail-biting 8-7 victory over Desert Christian, Jones pointed out a team strength that he thought would carry Pusch Ridge a long way.

"We don't have a lot of rowdy guys," said Jones. "It's just down to business. I like that kind of play, that quiet leadership."

If a state championship is any indicator, it seems safe to say that Pusch Ridge has earned some time to be loud this summer.

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HS Schedule

Tuesday, September 16

Boys Golf (@ 3 p.m.)

Buena, Cienega at Marana

Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge, Catalina at Amphi (Silverbell GC)

Catalina Foothills, Pueblo, Sahuarita at Sahuaro

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Mountain View at Rio Rico

Ironwood Ridge at Glendale Ironwood

Swimming (@4 p.m.)

Pusch Ridge, Sahuarita at Desert Christian

Wednesday, September 17

Girls Golf (@ 3 p.m.)

Rincon at CDO

Ironwood Ridge, Desert View at Flowing Wells (Silverbell)

Cross Country (@4:30)

Salpointe at Catalina Foothills

Palo Verde, Nogales at Marana

Rincon, St. Gregory at CDO

Sahuarita, Pueblo, Pusch Ridge at Desert View

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Empire at Marana (4:30, 5:30, 6:30)

CDO at Queen Creek

Cienega at Mountain View

Sahuaro at Catalina Foothills

Walden Grove at Pusch Ridge

Thursday, September 18

Girls Golf

CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Boys Golf

Sahuaro and Salpointe at Ironwood Ridge

CDO, Rincon, Sunnyside at Tucson High

Girls Volleyball (Fr 4 p.m., JV 5 p.m., Var 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Marana at Sahuarita

Ironwood Ridge at Sahuaro (4:30, 5:30, 6:30)

Catalina Foothills at Rincon

Pusch Ridge at San Manuel

Swimming (4 p.m.)

Marana vs. Tucson at Quincy Douglas Pool

Cienega at Marana

CDO, Ironwood Ridge at Amphi

Catalina Foothills at Sahuaro

Freshman Football (all games at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Flowing Wells at Marana (4 p.m.)

Desert View at Mountain View

Cienega at CDO

Ironwood Ridge at Buena

Catalina Foothills at Sahuarita

JV Football (all games at 6 p.m. unless otherwise noted)

Amphi at Marana

Santa Cruz Valley at Pusch Ridge

Mountain View at Desert View

CDO at Cienega

Buena at Ironwood Ridge

Sahuarita at Catalina Foothills

Friday, September 19

Boys Golf

Catalina Foothills, Ironwood Ridge, CDO, at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Cross Country

Mountain View, Ironwood Ridge at Mt. Carmel Invitational (San Diego, CA)

Girls Volleyball

CDO at Westwood Tournament of Champions

Football (@7 p.m.)

Pusch Ridge at Santa Cruz Valley

Catalina at Marana

Desert Vista at Mountain View

Ironwood Ridge at Buena

Cienega at CDO

Catalina Foothills at Sahuarita

Saturday, September 20

Boys Golf

Catalina Foothills, Ironwood Ridge, CDO, at Phoenix Aguila Invitational (all day)

Cross Country

Marana at Old Pueblo Invite(Lincoln Park)

Mountain View at San Diego

Catalina Foothills, CDO at Ojo Rojo (Chandler, AZ)

Swimming

Marana at Wolves Classic (Chandler High)

Girls Volleyball

CDO at Westwood Tournament of Champions

 

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