This time, Lions' baseball took care of its business - Tucson Local Media: 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

High School Basketball

(G) = Girl's game

Monday, Dec. 1

Mountain View vs. Boulder Creek 7 p.m.

@Marana vs. Palo Verde 7:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 2

(G) Pusch Ridge vs. Marana 6 p.m.

@Canyon del Oro vs. Amphi 7 p.m.

@Pusch Ridge vs. Marana 8 p.m.

Ironwood Ridge vs. Nogales 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 4

(G) Pusch Ridge vs. Pueblo 6:30 p.m.

(G) Marana vs. Nogales 7 p.m.

@Canyon del Oro vs. Nogales 7 p.m.

Pusch Ridge vs. Pueblo 8 p.m.

@Marana vs. Nogales 7:30 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 5

(G) @Marana vs. Cienega 7:30 p.m.

Canyon del Oro vs. Empire 7 p.m.

Ironwood Ridge vs. Basha 7:30 p.m.

Monday, Dec. 8

@Ironwood Ridge vs. Saguaro 7 p.m.

Marana vs. Catalina 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 9

(G) @Canyon del Oro vs. Sabino 7 p.m.

(G) @Marana vs. Empire 7:30 p.m.

Canyon del Oro vs. Sabino 7 p.m.

@Pusch Ridge vs. Douglas 7 p.m.

Ironwood Ridge vs. Buena 7:30 p.m.

Mountain View vs. St. Mary's

Marana vs. Empire 7 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 12

(G) @Marana vs. Catalina 7:30 p.m.

@Canyon del Oro vs. Rincon 7 p.m.

Pusch Ridge vs. Sahuarita 8 p.m.

@Ironwood Ridge vs. Cienega 7 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 13

@Ironwood Ridge vs. Mountain Pointe 5 p.m.

Mountain View vs. Moreau Catholic 4 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 16

Mountain View vs. Valley Vista 7 p.m.

@Marana vs. Santa Rita 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 17

Canyon del Oro vs. Walden Grove 7 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 18

(G) Canyon Del Oro vs. Marana 7:30 p.m.

(G) @Mountain View vs. Flowing Wells 7 p.m.

@Canyon del Oro vs. Marana 7 p.m.

@Pusch Ridge vs. Miami 7 p.m.

Ironwood Ridge vs. Vista Grande 7 p.m.

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