It was the kind of game you might expect from a number one vs. number two match-up.
Stellar pitching. A one-run decision. The outcome hinging on a couple key plays.
Unfortunately for the top-ranked Mingus Marauders, the decisive breaks didn't go their way this time around. Second-ranked Greenway took advantage of two Marauder miscues and eked a 2-1 non-region victory on a hot Monday afternoon in Phoenix.
All three of the game's runs were unearned. Both teams starting pitcher went the distance — and both threw well enough to earn the win.
"Mentally, it's probably going to refocus us," said Marauder coach Brad Grauberger, whose team fell to 22-3 overall. "I'm not going to complain, we've come through a lot this season. We've hit more than any team I've had.
For two straight games, though, Mingus has struggled to come up with clutch hitting with men on base. Against Flagstaff last Thursday, the Marauders stranded 10 but still won 7-4. Against Greenway, they left eight hanging.
Mingus Union's best chance to pile up runs Monday likely came in the fourth frame. Pat Lawler and Chris French walked to start the inning. Mike Lyons struck out, but Eli Arnett loaded the bases after being hit with a pitch.
But Greenway's Kenny McCarthy, who finished with 12 strikeouts, got one of his most important Ks against Devlin McCarty for the second out. Jed Morrison then hit a chopper right to McCarthy, who made the putout to end the inning.
Greenway scored what would be the game-winning run in the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs. Matt Williams hit a hard shot at the Marauder third baseman, who couldn't get a firm glove on it. Mark Goodman scored from third base on the error.
Mingus nearly tied it up in the top of the seventh after Rob Maine drew a two-out walk. Lawler then blasted a rocket up the third-base line. Though the ball appeared to be in fair territory – even to Greenway fans sitting in the bleachers above third – the ump ruled it foul.
Grauberger, also thinking Lawler came up with clutch hit, was in the process of sending pinch-runner Scott Wilcox home when the ump halted him. Lawler struck out on the next pitch.
"I saw the guy jogging to the ball in the outfield, and I thought we had one," Grauberger said.
Mingus scored its only run in the top of the fifth inning. Kevin Jacobsen smoked a double to centerfield, moved to third on an error and eventually came home on a passed ball.
Greenway took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third on an RBI single by Ryan Mazella. The play scored Mike Cook, who had singled and moved to third on a Marauder fielding error.
Arnett suffered his first pitching loss of the season, falling to 6-1. His ERA actually dropped to 1.20 because he didn't give up an earned run. McCarthy improved to 4-1.
"That was a great pitching performance by Eli," Grauberger said. "We've just got to help him out a little more."
Thanks to a Sinagua loss to Page last week, Mingus still remains in the driver's seat in the Grand Canyon Region race.
The Marauders could clinch a tie for first place with a win at Coconino on Thursday and could win the regular season outright with another win against visiting Chinle on Saturday.
Mingus finishes the regular season next Tuesday at Sinagua. Then it's on to the region and state tournaments — and another possible meeting with Greenway in a few weeks.
Though the Marauders didn't beat the Demons on Monday, Grauberger came away from the game knowing his team does belong among 4A's elite.
"We're at the point where we can compete with those teams in the state tournament," he said. "We've just got to string together great hitting, pitching and defense. Hopefully, we can learn from this."