Yuma Catholic sophomore shortstop Jaime Montanez stepped to the plate in the bottom of the fifth with the Shamrocks down by three runs.
Moments later, Montanez stood on third base, pumping his fist with the game suddenly tied after a bases-clearing hit by the sophomore. It was the catalyst to let the Shamrocks escape with a 4-3 win over Northwest Christian in six innings during the first day of the Shamrock Baseball Classic.
“When I swung I thought it was going to be a pop-up and I thought at least it's going to be a sacrifice fly,” said Montanez, who also hit a triple in the first inning. “But when I saw how deep and how spread out the right fielder and center fielder were playing, I was thinking it was going to be a hit.”
Junior Zach Boehler followed Montanez's deep hit to right field with a blooping single to center field to score the game-winning run for the Shamrocks.
“The whole game we had runners, we just needed that hit from somebody in the middle of our order to get that big hit to score some runs,” Shamrock coach Curt Foppe said of Montanez, who was the second hitter in the lineup. “You could feel that it was going to happen once we got that hit, and we finally got that hit.”
Senior Matt Milnick picked up the win by throwing a complete game, giving up three unearned runs and four hits while striking out two.
“Matt Milnick did a great job on the mound. We kicked the ball around a little bit to put him in a tough predicament and he grinded it out and kept us in the game on the mound,” Foppe said.
Yuma Catholic, which beat Antelope 15-0 earlier in the day, surrendered two errors in the top of the third which let Northwest Christian score its three runs on the night. Crusader senior Josh James hit a one-out fly ball to deep center, but Shamrock sophomore center fielder Jagan Cleary misplayed it to give Northwest Christian some life. Sophomore A.J. Graffanino followed with an single, Kaleb Worrell hit an RBI sacrifice fly to Cleary and Chase Brant smacked an RBI double to right-center.
“I was debating walking their big hitter. We didn't and he got the big hit for them,” Foppe said about Brant, who later scored on a fielding error by Boehler at third base.
After Milnick struck out to start the bottom of the fifth, the Shamrocks finally made their move.
Cleary and freshman Alex Olsen each drew walks sandwiched around a single by sophomore Karston Frank to load the bases for Montanez.
“At first I was nervous, of course,” Montanez said. “It didn't rely on me, but I had to come up with a big hit and I had to come through. What's going through my head is I'm going to get a hit. I'm not going to strike out. I'm either going to get a hit or a walk.”
Montanez ended up hitting a double to right-center and advanced to third base when the relay throw home went past the catcher.
Milnick threw a scoreless sixth inning to win it for the young Shamrocks, which started seven underclassmen against the Crusaders.
“This young team is a true team,” Foppe said. “We don't have a bunch of superstars, but we play the game pretty well and we stick with it.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.