By Tanner Puckett
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The Playmakers finished pool play with a 6-5 walk-off win over the NC Mavericks Green in seven innings Saturday afternoon. They finished undefeated in pool play through three games in the Arizona Spring Championships.
The Playmakers started the bottom of the seventh inning with a 5-4 deficit. They were one out away from a loss before Kamaile Noa legged out a single and scored Benny Rodriguez from third.
Rodriguez had reached third on a pair of stolen bases, the second coming on a perfectly timed double steal. That put Zayden Zataray on second, advancing to third on Rodriguez’s single and positioning him to swipe home.
The Playmakers’ head coach AJ Aguon said the steal was a decision they made beforehand, and one they’d done before.
“We’ve tried it in the past, yeah,” he said. “We come out and just try to give the most effort we can.”
Zataray’s dash for home caught the Mavericks by surprise and resulted in a close play at the plate, barely beating the tag to secure the victory.
“We’ve done it before in tough situations,” Playmaker Sebastian Ultreras echoed.
With the win, the Playmakers locked down the third seed headed into the bracket. The final run that gave the Playmakers the lead was the fourth lead change of the game. The Mavericks got out to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning, adding a second run in the fourth.
The one run from the Mavericks was the lone blemish on the record of Playmakers starting pitcher Aneesa Aguon, as she faced one over the minimum over the next two innings.
Mavericks pitcher Caden Aguiar held the Playmakers scoreless over the first three innings of the game. He finished his outing with a pair of one-two-three innings, the last time the Playmakers’ bats would go so quietly.
The Playmakers stung the Mavericks’ new pitcher Hank Harrison early, plating three runs in the fourth and grabbing their first lead of the game, 3-2.
A walk and a single put two runners on for Andre Hardy who roped a double onto the outfield grass. He crossed home on a sacrifice bunt from Brian Zamora before the end of the inning.
“Our approach at the plate was being patient,” coach Aguon said. “Trying to get runners on base, get them in scoring position. We executed on that.”
Harrison took the lead back from the Playmakers the next half-inning. With the bases loaded, Jordan Zell scored on a wild pitch. A few pitches later, Harrison scorched an outfield hit of his own, scoring two.
That was the last of the Mavericks’ offense, as Sebastian Ultreras came on to pitch for the Playmakers and threw 2.2 scoreless innings of relief, allowing just one hit and one walk.
“I was going with my guns,” coach Aguon said. “He’s one of my go-to guys.”
Though Ultreras logged three strikeouts, he said he was trying to generate weak contact and trust his defense.
“I was just trying to get outs,” he said. “I know we have good defense, and we can make the plays.”
A run created by Angelo Rivera after two stolen bases and a wild pitch in the fifth inning was the last scoring the game saw before the exciting finish in the seventh.
The three seed, the Playmakers will face off against the No. 2 Saddleback Cowboys on Sunday, March 8 at 8:00 a.m. to play for the D1 championship. The NC Mavericks Green, finishing No. 5, will await the winner of No. 8 Wasatch Baseball and the No. 9 Bear River Bears for a 12:45 p.m. match-up in the D2 bracket.