Most Viewed Stories
Cibola wins tournament with thriller over Hawks
There was nothing they could have done but wait for gravity to kick in.
After seeing an 8-3 lead turn into a 9-9 tie in a matter of minutes, the Gila Ridge Hawks were inevitably about to lose Saturday's Cibola Baseball Invitational final in walk-off fashion. With one out and runners on the corners in the bottom of the seventh inning, Cibola's Braden Easley hit a high chopper off the dirt in front of home plate. As the ball hung in the air – and did it ever – Zebastian Valenzuela broke for home and scored, giving the Raiders a scintillating 10-9 win at Desert Sun Stadium.
As he and his teammates rallied around the trophy for a picture afterwards, Cibola shortstop Tyler Parmenter said, “Wait till May, we'll get a better one.”
While it was the Raiders who jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, it was Gila Ridge who held control of the game heading into the bottom of the sixth. The Hawks toted an 8-3 advantage and were on the verge of knocking the hosts out of their own tournament. Then the Cibola offense came to life, knocking hits all over the place.
Miguel Corral got the ball rolling for the Raiders, delivering a two-run double to left field to cut the deficit to 8-5. Jacob Flores then added an RBI single and Parmenter walked, setting the stage for Krysthian Leal's heroics. When his team needed it most, Leal sent a pitch deep over the right field fence, putting the Raiders up 9-8.
“I was just coming up, like, ‘First fastball I get, I'm swinging, trying to hit a hard line drive,' ” Leal said. “And I got a fastball so I took advantage of it.”
But Gila Ridge would tie the game up in top of the seventh with Leal on the mound. Justin Taylor, who was eventually charged with the tough loss, made the score 9-9 with a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Irving Lopez. Taylor started the game in left field but came on in relief in the fifth inning, allowing seven runs, six earned, on six hits and two walks over 2 1/3 innings. Taylor had a fine day at the plate, though, hitting a two-run homer in the fifth and scoring two runs.
“He's been swinging the bat well for us all year,” Gila Ridge coach Greg Osowski said. “He continues to get the big hits for us right now, and I hope he continues to do it.”
The Raiders (6-7) went a perfect 5-0 in the tournament, a stark contrast to the seven straight losses they incurred at high-profile tournaments in the Phoenix-area to start the year. Before the season, Cibola coach Duane Evans pointed to the team's pitching as its strength, but it's the offense that's been hot recently. In their last three games, the Raiders have scored 37 runs, albeit against tired pitching arms near the end of a quick tournament.
“It does a lot for our morale,” Evans said. “We're a team that's trying to find our way. ... Potential on paper means nothing, you got to go out and execute and do the things. Hopefully, this will give the kids some confidence that they are a good team and that they're capable of going out and playing real good baseball.”