A fatigued pitching staff and untimely injury may have just produced Mesa Ridge's next frontline starting pitcher.
Hunter Lee moved from his regular position of catcher and allowed only one earned run and two hits over 5 1/3 innings, and the Grizzlies broke the game open with a six-run fifth in a 6-2 win Saturday over Sand Creek in the championship game of the three-day Creek Classic.
On Thursday, Lee suffered a pulled muscle in his arm and was unable to catch the rest of the weekend.
"We've got to find somebody, even when everyone else is out of gas," Grizzlies coach Cory Monroe said. "We found one today, and we're excited to have that.
Trailing 2-0 heading into the fifth inning, Mesa Ridge (6-2) struck for six runs only two hits, sending 10 batters to the place. After Sand Creek starter Tyler Meyers hit Jake Grotelueschen with the bases loaded to force in a run, Scorpions reliever Jon Mackey uncorked a wild pitch on his first throw that tied the score at 2-2.
After a walk to Logan Beatty reloaded the bases, Seth Fritsche chopped one over the head of drawn-in first baseman Jacob Guarnere and into shallow right for a two-run single that gave Mesa Ridge the lead for good.
"I've been bunting pretty well, and I tried to squeeze in a run, but I missed the first one," Fritsche said. "After that, I knew I just had to put the ball in play. If you do that, good things will happen."
A misplayed grounder off the bat of Cid Harrison at second base brought in two runs and completed the scoring.
Sand Creek, the designated road team, despite playing on its home field, put together a two-out rally to take a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Zach Keaton walked, went to second on a Mackey single to right and scored on Keenan Morgan's bloop single down the right-field line.
The Scorpions manufactured a run to go up 2-0 in the fourth. Mackey was hit, stole second, then went to third on a Morgan groundout. With two outs, Joe Tino hit a bouncer that was bobbled by Beatty at third base for an error.
Meyers took a three-hit shutout into the fifth but ran into trouble, then Sand Creek saw its 12-inning shutout streak end in a disastrous way, hampered by three walks, two errors and a hit batsman.
"Small little mistakes ended up costing us a big inning," Scorpions coach Brett Humphrey said. "It came down to mistakes. We made them and they didn't."
When Lee tired with one out in the fifth, Mesa Ridge turned to Glen DesBouillons, an infielder by trade pressed into duty in the outfield, to get the final five outs.
He was helped by Grotelueschen, who ran down a fly ball in shallow left-center field to start a double play to end a bases-loaded, one-out threat in the sixth.
"Desi can play anywhere, and we learned this weekend that anybody can play anywhere," Fritsche said. "We can trust each other. That's the biggest part. When everyone is down, we'll still make good plays. That brings everybody up."