What started as a crosstown rivalry game turned into a pitcher’s duel for the ages on the periphery of Marana last Friday afternoon.
The combatants, in host Marana (3-0) and Mountain View High School (2-4), traded strikeouts and frustration for much of the first few innings, before the Tigers’ bats woke up.
The opening salvo of the day came in the bottom of the second inning, when second baseman Kyle Toone ripped a line drive down the third baseline for an RBI triple.
The home side did much the same in the next inning, with Connor Petersen and Daniel Perez driving in runs on a double and sacrifice fly.
The final run of the day came on a seeing-eye single by outfielder Isaiah Roebuck, giving the Tigers more than enough output to outdo their longtime rival.
First-year Marana coach Arty Carrera, who previously served as a head coach at Tucson’s Rincon/University High School, praised his team for their never-say-die mentality.
Carrera said watching his players come through with timely hits and surehanded fielding was the highlight of the day. He knows that his team will need to do more of the same throughout the season, with a light-hitting offense that is dependent on making contact and playing mistake-free defense.
“I think [today’s win] just solidifies what we’re trying to do here,” Carrera said. “We’re just trying to play some small-ball, we’re trying to do things the right way, execute routine plays, and we’ve done a really good job doing that.”
Carrera was proud of the effort put in by senior pitcher Wyatt Christ, who gave up two hits over five innings of work. The first-year Marana skipper said his team’s success will depend on quality outings, like the one that Christ delivered on Friday.
Carrera believes the Tigers’ can achieve great things this season, should they be able to continue their mistake-free play that’s allowed them to beat Cholla, Flowing Wells and the Lions by a combined score of 13-0 this season.
“I don’t think there is a limit for us,” Carrera said. “I think that if we keep playing competitive baseball; pitchers throwing strikes, us making routine plays, having good at bats at the play, we’re going to be up there with everybody.”
The main takeaway from Friday’s contest for Mountain view coach Kyle Ivanoff was the team’s evolution into a disciplined, well-rounded collective. Ivanoff knows that his team will improve with time, as his youthful squad learns the ins and outs of playing at the varsity level.
“We’re a young team overall, so right now we’re just kind of building on that experience, getting guys innings and reps in at varsity,” Ivanoff said. “We had an early tournament that we showed some good things. Went two out of the three there. We just really haven’t been able to match that when we’ve gotten into the regular season games so far.”
Ivanoff was impressed by the maturity and composure that junior southpaw Alessandro Soto put in against the Tigers. He believes that the confidence that Soto, who struck out four Marana hitters in five innings of work, has showed on the mound this season.
Ivanoff also knows that his players are struggling at the plate, which he attributed to a sense of pressure that has permeated their dugout.
“I think they feel it, they know that it’s counting now,” Ivanoff said. “We’re in the season, and everybody is pressing a little bit more. Just our inexperience is really showing. Our guys just not mentally doing what they need to right now.”
Carrera’s team has experienced its share of ups and downs over the past few years, last posting a winning record in the 2014-15 regular season.
He believes this year’s team has the right makeup to do just that, with Friday’s shutout victory serving as a confidence boost for those that donned the blue and gold.
“They’re buying into what we’re trying to teach them, that’s really hard to do, to have someone new come in and then just be able to trust us,” he said. “I think they understand what our intentions are, and they buy into it. They’re going into this with a full heart, and they’re out here to have fun, and just play a little kid’s game.”
Marana traveled to Empire to face the Ravens Tuesday, March 5 after deadline, and will be on the road against Sahuaro High School Thursday, March 7. Mountain View hosted Tucson High Tuesday, March 5, hosts Canyon del Oro Thursday, March 7 and will play at Sunnyside Friday, March 8.