Prescott falls to Estrella Foothills in state baseball playoffs
Updated as of Sunday, April 28, 2019 12:08 PM
Schulz twirls gem, allowing 3 runs in 6-2/3 innings against Wolves
PRESCOTT — A balk by Prescott relief pitcher Luke Fredrick in the top of the seventh inning sent Wolves first baseman Justin Williamson trotting home for what ended up being the game-winning run in the Badgers’ 4-3 state playoff loss to No. 9 Estrella Foothills on Saturday afternoon.
It is the first loss at home this season for the No. 8-ranked Badgers (15-10, 11-1 Grand Canyon), which were 7-0 at their home ballpark and had won seven of eight overall coming into Saturday’s affair.
Wolves’ pitcher Seth Sweet-Chick may have kept the Badger bats at bay with five strong innings on the mound, but with just one swing of the bat, he changed the game.
With his team trailing 3-1 in the top of the fifth, Sweet-Chick swung hard on an inside fastball from Prescott’s Jake Schulz and deposited it over the left field fence for a two run homer.
Even as the 6-foot-3 junior rounded first base, he wasn’t sure the ball was gone. After all, Prescott’s outfield is deep, and runs about 340 feet down the left field line.
So when Sweet-Chick’s ball came to rest in the grass beyond the fence an estimated 390 feet from home plate, a few fist pumps exploded from his chest as his Estrella Foothills teammates spilled out of the dugout to celebrate a 3-3 tie.
“I was just trying to get a pitch I could drive to put our team up on the board and get us back in the game,” Sweet-Chick said.
On the bump, Sweet-Chick threw five innings, allowing only three runs on five hits while striking out four.
“It was big, our whole team, we were fired up. We wanted to make sure this wasn’t our last game, we didn’t want to go home,” Sweet-Chick said about his team’s effort. “We rallied together and pulled out the win.”
Estrella Foothills skipper Patrick McCubbins said the decision was already made before Sweet-Chick got the last outs in the fifth to pull him from the state playoff game.
“We have a pretty deep pitching staff. We knew it was going to be a pretty tight ball game,” McCubbins said. “In addition to that, body language, he can get pretty emotional … I knew he was done.”
Averaging a tick under six runs per game this season, Prescott plated a run in the bottom of the third after Rhett Pearce doubled and later scored on a wild pitch.
In the fourth, Korey Schwartz was hit by a pitch, Ray Chairez singled, and Ashton Hubbs scored them both on a two-RBI double to make it 3-1.
Schwartz and Chairez were each 2 for 3 with a run scored, while Slater Krupnick was 1 for 2 with two walks.
Six of the eight hits for Prescott came from batters five through nine in the lineup.
Pitching his last game in Badger blue and yellow, Schulz was outstanding, throwing 6-2/3 innings while allowing only three runs on six hits and striking out two.
The senior didn’t hold back tears when hugging several players after the game.
“This is the day we’ve prepared for since the first day of practices, weights, or whatever it may be. It definitely leaves a sour taste in your mouth. … Baseball is a pretty cruel game sometimes and it just didn’t pan out our way,” Schulz said, adding later, “[Losing this game is a] hard pill to swallow, most of us have played together since we were 5 years old.”
The Badgers will lose seven seniors to graduation come May including regular starters Krupnick, Schulz and Chairez.
Estrella Foothills (24-5, 6-2 Southwest) moves on to the quarterfinals of the 4A state playoffs and will play No. 1-ranked Mesquite on Monday.
The Wildcats (26-4, 10-0 Desert Sky) beat the Wolves 4-3 in March, and advanced Saturday after a 7-1 win over No. 16 Flagstaff.
First pitch Monday is set for 4 p.m.
Brian M. Bergner Jr. is news/sports editor for The Daily Courier of Prescott News Network. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and SoundCloud at @TheEditorDesk. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.