Matt Kroon hit a home run in the first inning to give Phoenix Horizon its first run on Tuesday night (May 6), but it probably didn’t feel as good as the ball he hit in the sixth that traveled about half as far.
He hit a high fly that seemingly disappeared into the darkness. The left fielder, center fielder and shortstop for Phoenix Sunnyslope converged, but the ball dropped between them, allowing the Huskies to score what would prove to be the winning run as they rallied for a 6-5 victory at home in a second-round Division I game.
Horizon the No. 3 seed, improved to 25-5. The Huskies advance to the double-elimination portion of the tournament that begins on Thursday (May 8) and will face No. 22 Gilbert, which upset No.6 Phoenix Mountain Pointe 4-3. Game time is 4 p.m. at Maryvale Baseball Park in west Phoenix.
No. 14 Sunnyslope, meanwhile, had a strong effort, finishing at 15-13 after moving up from Division II this season. The Vikings had won the state title in 2012 over Peoria Liberty and finished as runner-up a year ago to Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep.
“We live another day,’’ long-time Horizon coach Eric Kibler said with a sigh of relief.
“That was a very good high school game. They (Sunnyslope) played awesome. Their kids gave everything they had and they battled. We knew that would happen,’’ Kibler said. “But I am proud of our kids.
“We were down 3-0 (after the top of the first) and they are not used to that. I told them about a similar game we had in 1996 in the tournament, when we had a pitcher named Ryan Mills, who came back after trailing 4-0 (Horizon went on to win the title). I told our kids tonight, “That’s why we play seven innings.’ ’’
Horizon right-hander Trevor Horn struggled in the early going, giving up three hits in the first inning, including home runs by Ryan Saltonstall and Ryan Oberg. In the third inning, Oberg connected for his second two-run homer of the game, but it would not be enough. Horn, working out of the stretch the entire night, gave up just one more hit after Oberg’s second shot.
Horizon got one run back in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Ben Lewis to make it 5-3, and tied it in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by Evan Williams and a homer by Alex Campbell.
In the sixth, Lewis hit a two-out double to deep center. Kroon then came up with his hit and Lewis, on the move with the two outs, came home.
Sunnyslope put the tying run at second in the seventh on an infield hit and throwing error on the same play, but Horn retired the last two men, including a game-ending strikeout.