GLENDALE - Down 2-1, the Sabino baseball team needed to score at least one run to keep its season alive in the seventh inning of the Division II matchup against Peoria Liberty.
But getting runs meant getting on base against Liberty pitcher Nathan Bannister, something the Sabercats had trouble doing the entire game. And as they had twice before in the game, Sabino's batters went down in order, giving Liberty a 2-1 victory.
"This was a good high school game," Sabercats head coach Rod Allen said. "This is what you hope for. You have two very good teams here as evident by the score.
"Only one team gets to win the last one, and it's just too bad it couldn't be us."
Liberty scored first after leadoff man Paul Panaccione singled and later stole second base. After a sacrifice bunt advanced him to third, he was brought in by a single from catcher Ryan Benedict. Panaccione scored both of the runs for the Lions.
The Sabercats were able to capitalize on two Liberty errors in the second inning when, with two outs, J.J. Rau reached first on an error by the Liberty second baseman. The next batter, Gabe Johnson, hit a seemingly routine fly ball to right field, but the fielder let the ball drop. Rau scored from first, tying the game at 1.
From then on it was a pitchers' duel between Bannister and Sabino pitcher Jeremy Timpf. Neither team was able to generate a scoring threat until the fifth inning, when Panaccione walked, stole second, and came home on two passed balls, making the score 2-1.
"Obviously, there was a lot on the line, and it didn't come out like we wanted it to, but I thought I pitched the best game I could," Timpf said. "All the teams in this tournament are good, and that pitcher had some weird arm slots that we just couldn't get used to."
Despite the tough loss, the Sabercats were happy with their season. According to Timpf, their 28 wins is a school record. Allen made sure his team didn't try and look for a scapegoat to blame the loss on.
"We had a great season, and you can't lose track of that," Allen said. "The common thread, though, when a team loses, is to find somebody to blame. This is not a team where we're going to look for somebody to blame. We've had each other's backs all year; we just got beat tonight. That's baseball."