NCS Division 2 championship: Casa Grande falls 8-0

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Casa Grande's Anthony Bender and Campolindo's Conner McNally look for the call at second during the NCS Championship game Saturday at Santa Rosa Junior College. (Photo by CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

Casa Grande’s Anthony Bender and Campolindo’s Conner McNally look for the call at second during the NCS Championship game Saturday at Santa Rosa Junior College. (Photo by CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

One loss does not diminish a season of superlatives, yet Casa Grande still was stunned to fall flat on this baseball season’s biggest stage.

Three hits won’t win many ballgames as Casa Grande learned in Saturday’s blanking by Campolindo for the North Coast Section Division 2 championship. No comeback was in store after yielding runs in four different innings to the defending champions who completed a convincing 8-0 win.

“We expected more of ourselves. We were flat,” said centerfielder Charlie Parnow. “Half the goal this season was getting here, half the goal was winning.

But this game doesn’t define our season.”

There is no shame in falling to a team taking its fourth consecutive section title. Campolindo, indeed, was on a mission after falling to Casa Grande in an early season stretch of losses that motivated the Cougars.

“We had a slow start. We just had to keep our composure,” said first basemen Trent Shelton, one in a trio of players on all four section winners. “It was only a matter of time. We knew we would get hot.”

On a sultry Saturday the Campolindo bats were blazing. The offensive outburst complemented the Cougars typically strong defense and superior pitching.

Matt Ladrech, the same pitcher Casa Grande handled earlier in the season, threw a complete game. Campolindo hurlers did not give up a run in four section playoff contests.

“They’re great in all facets of the game. They were better than us today,” said Casa Grande coach Paul Maytorena. “I’ll take my guys into battle any day. I’m so proud of them.”

The contest was billed as a mythical state championship — Casa Grande ranked first and Campolindo second in division two. The game was played to an overflow crowd at Santa Rosa Junior College.

Campolindo put pressure on early and often. Stringing scoring threats in every inning, the Cougars took command with a three-run fourth inning.

A leadoff triple by Brett Stephens was followed by a Shelton single, a base on balls, and hits from Denis Karas and Ryan Hooper, putting the Cougars up 4-0.

Casa Grande stopper Eric Parnow came in to do just that, recording three consecutive outs. Yet that was the only three up, three down sequence for Gauchos pitchers in the game.

Having lost to Casa Grande earlier in the season and knowing the Gauchos ability to comeback, Campolindo never let up.

“We treat every game like it’s the biggest one,” Shelton said. “Casa Grande is a great team. They battle.”

Looking to keep Casa down, Campolindo had run-scoring singles from Shelton and Hooper again in the fourth inning.

Parnow would shut down Campolindo the next two innings. The momentum carried into the home half of the sixth.

A leadoff single from third basemen Anthony Garatti and a one-out hit by catcher Francis Christy was the best scoring threat Casa Grande mounted. Just as quickly, Campolindo turned a groundball into a double play to silence the Gauchos.

Recording only a single strikeout, Ladrech was not overpowering. He was just very sharp. Ladrech mixed pitches to keep Casa Grande off balance and only walked one batter.

Still, the Gauchos remained confident. The closest team in Christy’s four years in the Casa Grande program would battle to the end.

“That’s what we’re all about, just playing as one. That’s the reason we’ve been sop successful,” Christy said.

Casa Grande overcame the loss of their top pitcher to injury and the suspension of three players — two were starters — to win 27 games on the season.

“We went through some adversity. We’re a family for sure,” said Parnow, another senior. “This season has been spectacular.”

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