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Don KetchumStaff Writer, AIA365.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Notre Dame earns first baseball title in school historyMay 14, 2013
If you happen to see an object flying through the Arizona sky and don’t know what it is, don’t be alarmed.
It is not a UFO. It is Austin Schnabel’s baseball glove.
He tossed it so high into the air on Tuesday night (May 14) that it still has not come back to earth.
Winning a state championship can create that kind of euphoria.
What a night it was for Schnabel and his teammates from Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep.
The third-seeded Saints captured the first state championship in school history with a nail-biting 2-1 victory over fifth-seeded, 2012 champion Phoenix Sunnyslope as the Division II tournament wrapped up at Camelback Ranch in Glendale.
Notre Dame finished at 30-7, Sunnyslope 28-5. Notre Dame was state runner-up in the old Class 4A Division II in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
Schnabel, a 6-foot-5 right-hander who has signed with the University of Arizona, tossed a two-hitter and struck out eight in what many, including Schnabel himself, thought might have been his best outing of the season.
“I only threw about five curveballs. I located my fastball, got them to pound it into the ground or got some pop-fly outs,’’ Schnabel said.
The one ball that caused the most concern was a lot more than a pop fly.
After Sunnyslope’s Casey Bowman led off the bottom of the seventh with a single and Schnabel got a strikeout, the Vikings’ Royal Love stepped to the plate and sent a towering drive deep into the gap in left-center field.
Green-clad Sunnyslope fans stood and watched, hoping and praying that the ball would go over the fence for the win or at least bounce off it for a game-tying hit.
But diminutive center fielder Jimmy DiTroia zipped over and tracked the ball down on the warning track, just in front of the fence.
“When he hit it, I was saying, “Please don’t go out,’ ’’ Schnabel said.
Notre Dame coach Brian Fischer admitted that Love “hit it hard. But Jimmy has been running pretty much everything down this year and we had the confidence that he could do it this time.’’
There were two outs, and Schnabel got the final out on a ground ball to second base.
Schnabel launched his glove into the air and the celebration began.
“This is surreal to me,’’ said Schnabel, who also expects to get drafted in Major League Baseball’s annual Amateur Draft in June, but isn’t sure if he will go pro or head to the UofA.
“We knew we had a chance (to win it all). We had a lot of confidence. It all came together for us.’’
Sunnyslope was unbeaten in the tournament until Tuesday night and Notre Dame came back through the loser’s bracket after falling to No. 10 Nogales. After that loss, the Saints defeated No. 2 Phoenix Greenway, No. 1 Chandler Seton Catholic, No. 4 Tucson Sahuaro and No. 6 Tucson Ironwood Ridge.
Fischer said it was a tough regular-season schedule that prepared his team for just such a scenario.
“If we could get through that, we knew we could play with anybody,’’ he said.
Notre Dame took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Duncan Morfitt led off with a single and Hunter Bross hit a double just inside the left-field line.
The Saints made it 2-0 in the third. Kobe Foppe led off with a single, stole second base and advanced to third when Sunnyslope left-hander Cody Bergkamp was called for a balk. Ryan Scott followed with a run-scoring single to shallow center, but it was debatable if Foppe could have scored from second had the balk not been called.
Sunnyslope cut the lead to 2-1 in the fourth. Calvin Lebrun walked with one out, went to third on a single by Bowman and scored on a passed ball.
Schnabel seemed to get stronger after that, striking out the side in the fifth, getting two outs on solid defensive plays off bunt attempts in the sixth and then the long running catch by DiTroia in the seventh.
“He (Schnabel) was pretty good, wasn’t he?’’ Fischer said.
Bergkamp pitched a solid game for Sunnyslope, giving up six hits and striking out six.