Gaona in the Game: Explosive I-Ridge winning big with mistake-free ball

2013-03-15T00:00:00Z Gaona in the Game: Explosive I-Ridge winning big with mistake-free ballDaniel Gaona Arizona Daily Star
March 15, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Ironwood Ridge's baseball team is 10-0 and averaging more than 15 runs a game.

It has a .448 batting average, a .974 fielding percentage and a national-best .735 slugging percentage.

Devin Harrison is tied for fifth place in the country with a whopping 26 RBIs, and fellow senior Jake Matthews is tied for sixth in the nation with five home runs.

While I-Ridge coach Dennis Toia isn't focused on those numbers, he can't deny they're an added bonus.

Toia has the undefeated Nighthawks focused on limiting four things: offensive strikeouts, walks surrendered, base-running errors and defensive errors.

In a 15-0 win over Pueblo in five innings Monday, I-Ridge had no mistakes in any of the four categories.

Senior Travis Chavez threw a two-hitter, and Matthews hit a line-drive grand slam to left field that put the Nighthawks up 10-0 in the top of the first inning.

"We're really not focused on who we play right now. We have a goal to beat the game," Toia said.

Thirteen may be the magic number for I-Ridge. That's how many seniors are on the team.

Veteran leadership is important: Matthews was one of 17 seniors to play on the Nighthawks' football team last fall.

That squad steamrolled its way to a 13-1 finish, capped off by a Division II state championship.

Could history repeat itself, only this time on the diamond instead?

If the Nighthawks continue playing the way they are, it seems very possible. Matthews agrees.

"We're going to have our downs - that's the way baseball goes - but if we keep pushing through it and have a lot of confidence, we'll be OK," he said.

Matthews also said one of the key similarities between the football and baseball teams is the unselfish attitude of each squad.

Harrison, Matthews, Chavez, Kurt Bailey and Trey Stine are all signed to play at Pima College next year and are the heart and soul of the team.

"We're all really tight here and just having fun," said Harrison, a three-year starter who is batting .618. "It feels like no pressure at all actually."

Ironwood Ridge has won 22 games in each of the past two seasons, and Toia is impressed with the progress the seniors have made since they entered the program.

"These kids have put in so much time over four years," Toia said. "They're just great, hard-working kids, and they're reaping the benefits of that.

"It doesn't hurt that they're good baseball players, too."

Badgers boys basketball coach Lewis resigns

Long-time Tucson High boys basketball coach Gary Lewis turned in his letter of resignation Tuesday.

Lewis, 50, had coached the Badgers since 1999 and was named the Arizona Daily Star Southern Arizona Coach of the Year in 2004.

He said he stepped down because "it was just time."

"I was just going a different direction basically," Lewis said. "I've got another chapter in my life I have to get in to."

The Badgers were 27-38 over Lewis' final three seasons. He said a return to coaching is possible if things go the way he'd like them to the next couple of years.

Tucson athletic director Jerry Gastellum is hoping to have a new coach in place soon so the Badgers can field a summer team.

Harvard's Clark named to All-Ivy League first team

Former Tucson High standout Christine Clark was one of three players named to the All-Ivy League basketball team Thursday.

Clark, a junior, was named conference Player of the Week four times this year and is second in the league in scoring, averaging 15.7 points per game.

This is the second straight year Clark received first-team honors. She was also named to the all-rookie team as a freshman.

Desert Christian's Malis has successful, busy day

Sophomore Zach Malis went 4 for 5 with four RBIs at the plate Monday, hitting three triples and a double as Desert Christian beat Walden Grove 15-3.

If that wasn't enough, he threw 83 pitches, struck out three batters and got the win on the mound for the Eagles.

On StarNet: Follow your school during the spring high school sports season at azstarnet.com/sports/high-school

Contact Daniel Gaona at dgaona@azstarnet.com or 807-7761. On Twitter @DanielGaona13

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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