Desert Vista wasn't winning many close games early in the season, but the Thunder are collecting their share now.
Desert Vista spotted Mesa Mountain View a 3-1 lead in the first inning, but battled back behind solid pitching and the offensive spark of No. 8 Keenan Bartlett to defeat the host Toros 7-3 in a Division I baseball matchup.
Juniors Zach Hardy and Brendan McKee combined on a four-hitter to help Desert Vista improve to 14-5 overall, 6-3 in power-ranking games. Even at 5-3 in power-ranking contests prior to the game, the Thunder was fifth in D-I power rankings. Winning its fair share of power-ranking games and the very rigorous slate Desert Vista has undertaken is all part of its high status.
“We wanted a tough schedule,” Desert Vista coach Stan Luketich said. “We lost some games early, one run games to tough opponents. Lost by a run to Hamilton (tournament game), Horizon, Mountain Pointe and got beat by Mesquite that wasn't by a run. We have a bunch of guys that play hard and give it all they have.”
Desert Vista committed both errors it made in the first inning behind Hardy that aided Mountain View's three-run frame. Chase Anderson had the lone Mountain View RBI in the inning on a double. The other runs scored via a bobble in center field and a wild pitch.
Hardy brushed off the slow start following it with 4 2/3 innings two-hit, no-run baseball. That enabled his team to battle back with scoring rallies in the fifth, sixth and seventh that dealt Mountain View (13-9. 6-4 prg) its second loss in three days to a top-10 power-ranking foe. Mountain View bowed to Brophy on Wednesday.
Bartlett, one of six seniors in Desert Vista's starting lineup, got the Thunder on the road to victory with a leadoff double in the fifth. Mountain View starter Nolan Ross, who also scuffled in the first inning not all his doing, got a fly out and then faced leadoff hitter AJ Valencia. Valencia line a ball to medium left field that fooled Toros' left fielder Brady Gerber off the bat. Gerber lunged for the ball and missed. It spun away and rolled to the left-field corner as the speedy Valencia circled the bases for an inside-the-park, game-tying homer.
With the game knotted at 3 in the top of the sixth, Kyle Gibbs ripped a one-out single and his courtesy runner stole second. Bartlett followed with a solid single to left center giving Desert Vista the lead for good. 4-3. Desert Vista tacked on three runs in a nightmare seventh for Mountain View. The Thunder used two hits, two walks and two hit batters to blow the game open. Bartlett drove in one of the runs with a bases-loaded walk. Gibbs was hit by a pitch to force in a run and Cullen Bottock's infield hit brought home the final run. Desert Vista's 7-8-9 hitters combined for four of seven RBI. Bartlett had three hits and three RBI in a win earlier this week at Highland.
“(Bartlett) has been hitting well lately,” Luketich said. “He hit the ball hard today. Made solid contact. Our guys hitting 7-8-9 have helped us win some games.”
McKee, who got the final out in the sixth with the tying run at third, struck out two in a scoreless seventh to close out the Toros.
“Both pitchers did a good job,” Luketich said. “When you play Mountain View you better come prepared to play the whole game. It was a battle. I have a lot of respect for their coaches and players.”