May 2, 2014 Updated: May 2, 2014 at 9:59 pm
Mesa Ridge coach Cory Monroe doesn't stress about the importance of extra-base hits in his senior-flooded dugout. He just asks his players to get on base, and then he'll give them the sign to move up from there.
On a sunscreen Friday afternoon, Monroe's bunch stayed aggressive on the base paths to keep pace with hard-hitting Coronado before one of the team's 11 seniors, Joey Craig, hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh inning to lead the host Grizzlies to a 9-8 win in the regular-season finale.
TJ Bisgrove and Ben Ryberg added three stolen bags apiece at the top of the order for Mesa Ridge, which gave up an 8-5 lead down the stretch before Craig's game-winning hit.
"We've been running on people all season," said Monroe, whose team leads 4A with 129 stolen bases. "We want to turn walks and singles into what is like doubles and triples. However we get on, we want to get into scoring position from there."
The Grizzlies (14-5) stole one of their 11 bases early in the seventh inning to get Coronado reliever Carter Gerber off-balance, and then got help from the Cougars' third baseman, who dropped a fly ball to load the bases with nobody out.
After a failed squeeze play, they finally capitalized for good when Craig squared up a fastball and drove it into left field.
The Grizzlies senior, who has a .156 batting average, was hitless in his last 13 plate appearances before his walk-off.
"After playing pretty bad against Widefield, and losing, we practiced our butts off," Craig said, referring to Mesa Ridge's 11-6 loss to Widefield on Tuesday. "This kind of win helps my confidence and our team's confidence go sky high heading into the playoffs."
Coronado's Emilio Martinez nearly spoiled it for the Grizzlies. The junior did give up eight runs, five of which were earned, in six innings. But he also made the pitches he needed to late in the game, striking out 12 batters, while putting the Cougars (7-12) on his back at the plate where he went 3 for 4 with four RBIs.
"Coming in I said, 'If I see the ball in the zone I'm going to drive it,'" said Martinez, who led the game off with a three-run double in the first inning. "I was seeing the ball great today. I just didn't make enough pitches."
Mesa Ridge ace Jake Grotelueschen had one of his roughest outings of the season, giving up eight runs in 51/3 innings. Desi DesBouillons closed the door in the sixth inning before going on to pitch a 1-2-3 seventh inning to keep the game knotted at 8 and earn the win.
Mesa Ridge (14-5), which clinched the 4A Colorado Springs Metro League title last week, and Coronado, the league's second-place finishers, await their 4A district seeding.