Top of lineup leads Salpointe Catholic into 4A baseball title game
High school playoffs

Top of lineup leads Salpointe Catholic into 4A baseball title game

It’s hard to beat a team twice, let alone four times.

But second-ranked Salpointe Catholic made it easy on itself at Amphitheater High School on Wednesday night, scoring seven runs in the first four innings of an 8-4 Class 4A baseball state semifinal win over No. 6 Casa Grande Vista Grande, which was looking to avenge its quarterfinal loss to the Lancers from a week ago. This was the fourth time the teams have met this season, with Salpointe sweeping the series by a combined 13 runs.

“It makes it difficult, because they’re a really good ballclub,” Salpointe coach Danny Preble said. “To their credit, they came out and gave us another ballgame, which was totally expected.”

The two teams ran it back Wednesday with the same starting pitchers as in last week’s matchup: Vista Grande’s Adam Belloc and Salpointe’s Jaeden Swanberg. The big Lancer lefty wasn’t as polished as his last outing, when he allowed just two earned runs in nearly six innings, but he didn’t need to be.

Salpointe (24-6) racked up 11 hits, including an RBI-double from Levi Padilla and a first-inning RBI-triple from Nano Vasquez. Every starter reached base, chasing Belloc after just two innings.

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The top of the lineup sparked the offense.

Leadoff hitter Romeo Ballesteros, who had an incredible diving stop at shortstop in the top of the fifth, went 2 for 3 with a walk and two RBIs. Behind him, second baseman Vasquez went 2 for 4 with an RBI.

“Those guys([at the top of the lineup) are the mainstays,” Preble said. “They’ve been there all year for us, and they have been clutch for us all year. When they go, we really go.”

Still, the whole lineup contributed to the offensive explosion, as seven batters drove in at least one run.

That was more than enough for Swanberg, who allowed four runs, three earned, on four hits and three walks with one hit-batter and four strikeouts over five innings. His only issue was with leadoff batters. He let four of five reach, including two walks and a hit-batter, but still managed to keep himself out of any major trouble.

“He handles pressure well, because I don’t think he truly understands what pressure is,” Preble said. “He goes out, competes his butt off, and says, ‘Here it is. This is what I got, and I’m going to give you my best every time out.’”

Salpointe, seeking its first state title, advances to the championship game for the second time in three years. In 2017, it lost to Nogales, which is now in Class 5A. The Lancers will face No. 1 Gilbert Mesquite at 7 p.m. Monday at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa.

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