Maybe it was a good thing Ironwood Ridge baseball coach Jason Hisey didn't throw pitching aces Brandon Matthews and Kyle Petty against Sunnyside in a playoff tuneup for both teams last Tuesday.
The two teams squared off again in their 5A-II first-round playoff opener at Ironwood Ridge Saturday, when the Nighthawks (19-9, 11-1 in conference) prevailed 11-10 in eight innings. Ironwood Ridge was slated to play Tempe Marcos de Niza at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Surprise.
Freshman Trey Stine hit the tie-breaking single to give the Nighthawks the dramatic win in their last at-bat Saturday.
"We had a lot of clutch hitting," said assistant coach Nathan Orelup.
Matthews belted two home runs, extending a monstrous season. The junior has batted .432 with five homers and 29 runs batted in. Zach Sweety, Clay Matthews and Daniel Medina each added doubles for the Nighthawks.
Matthews pitched the first five innings Saturday. After surrendering three runs in the first, Matthews threw shutout ball for the next three innings, until tiring in the fifth and giving up two.
The Nighthawks scored two runs in the first and three more in the third.
Petty relieved Matthews in the sixth with the Nighthawks holding the lead, 8-5. The Blue Devils rallied for two in the sixth and two in the top of the seventh for a brief 9-8 lead.
"We've had better pitching," Orelup said. "But we had just two errors."
The Nighthawks rallied to tie it in the bottom of the seventh. Then, after the Blue Devils put another run on the board in the top of the eighth, the Nighthawks won it with two in the bottom half.
The Nighthawks had already won their first regional championship before losing last Tuesday to Sunnyside, 22-10, in a five-inning game. It was Ironwood Ridge's lone conference loss.
The blowout loss had to be taken with a grain of salt, because Hisey deliberately held out Matthews and Petty.
"We had wrapped up a playoff spot," Hisey said. "We rested some regulars."
Using five other pitchers, none of whom pitched more than an inning each, the Nighthawks walked 12 batters. Sunnyside scored four runs without a hit on seven straight walks in the second inning.
Offensively, the Nighthawks held their own, as they matched Sunnyside's 15 hits and hit three home runs. Sweety, Steven Still and Alex Worden all homered.
"Offensively, we had a good game," Sweety said. "Ten runs in five innings should win."
"We never hit three home runs in a game," said Still, who singled, doubled, and homered.
The Nighthawks ended the regular season with a 22-5 win over Rincon. Sweety hit two homers, a double and a triple in the game. He finished up with a .441 batting average and 33 runs batted in.
Worden also reached .400 with a .408 average, 24 runs batted in, and a team-leading 37 runs scored.