Baseball 4A-II state championship: Blank fires Catalina to 1st crown since '67

2011-05-15T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T09:33:08Z Baseball 4A-II state championship: Blank fires Catalina to 1st crown since '67Michael J. Craven Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 15, 2011 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - By the time Nicco Blank found himself in the middle of a postgame celebratory mob, he'd forgotten all the specifics of the 4-II state title game.

He couldn't remember how, after pitching seven stellar innings on two days rest, he'd worked out of a jam in the eighth to keep the game tied at 1 to give his offense another chance in the ninth.

He barely remembered hitting a leadoff single, then scoring three batters later on Robby Pearson's go-ahead, two-RBI knock.

Even his triple later in the ninth, which scored two more runs and gave Catalina a staggering seven-run lead, was fuzzy.

All he remembered: "When I was out there, I was running on adrenaline and that's it. Nothing was going to stop me."

Indeed, Blank refused to be beaten. He used his arm and bat to guide Catalina to a thrilling 8-4 win over No. 1 Phoenix Thunderbird in nine innings at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.

It was Catalina's first state baseball title since 1967. Blank's parents were toddlers then, many of the team's parents weren't even born yet, and 52-year-old skipper Tony Gabusi was 7.

"Words can't explain this feeling," said Pearson, who pitched the No. 6 Trojans to Friday night's semifinal victory over No. 2 Phoenix Greenway. "I am the happiest person alive right now."

With Pearson unavailable to pitch, the duty fell squarely on Blank, who pitched in Wednesday's quarterfinal win.

"I was only supposed to pitch three or four (innings)," Blank said. "Coach said, 'Give me whatever you can.' "

Instead, Blank pitched the game of his life, allowing just a run in the first and not another until the ninth, when Catalina (22-11) already had the game in hand.

He had help from his defense, too. Center fielder Alec Esquivel had an ESPN-worthy diving catch in the eighth which, with a Thunderbird runner rounding second, likely saved the game.

Blank then allowed a bloop single to shallow center before getting a strikeout to end the inning.

How he mustered the energy for a single to lead off the ninth, he isn't sure.

"I was just thinking 'How am I going to run even if I do hit it?' " Blank said.

As it turned out, he found enough juice left for not just the single, which he described as a "crucial momentum-getter," but a triple later on to cap the inning.

When asked when he last recorded two hits in an inning, Blank paused and replied, "Honestly, I don't think I've done it.

"Many memories were made today."

CATALINA 8

THUNDERBIRD 4

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