It’s becoming clear that Killian will be one of the most dangerous teams in the upcoming Class 8A state baseball championship quest.
The Cougars collectively came through in the clutch again Thursday afternoon scoring twice in the bottom of the seventh for a 5-4 walk-off home victory against Columbus that clinched Killian’s second GMAC championship in the past three years.
Five consecutive batters reached base without an out capped when junior Keith Stevens singled with the bases loaded to score Danny Cumba and begin the Cougars’ celebration.
“I knew we would need to show resilience and fight to accomplish what we want this season, and boy, did they show that [Thursday],” Killian coach Angel Herrera said. “We’re going to enjoy this one, but starting Monday we have to start focusing on what’s going to be a tough district schedule.”
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Trailing 4-3, junior outfielder Sneaky Guzman led off the inning with a single to left field. Cumba then hit a bloop fly ball that dropped an inch inside the right-field line for another single.
This prompted Columbus coach Joe Weber to take out starting pitcher Armando Gonzalez and bring in reliever Nick Silva.
Freshman shortstop Freddie Zamora tried to bunt twice and failed.
But Zamora worked the count and delivered a single to left field to load the bases with no outs.
Senior catcher Spencer Levine took the first three pitches of the ensuing at-bat for balls and a 3-0 count. Silva dealt a strike on the next pitch, and Levine fouled off another for a full count.
Silva couldn’t find the mark on the following pitch, missing high and walking in the tying run as Guzman scored.
That set up Stevens’ heroics as he drove a fastball to deep right field for the winner.
“I was just trying to be aggressive on the at-bat,” Stevens said. “Our cohesiveness has been a big part of our success. We’re just feeding off each other’s energy out there every game.”
Stevens finished with two hits and two RBI, hitting a double as part of a three-run first inning for Killian (21-4). Junior second baseman Eddy Demurias also had an RBI double in the inning, and junior Joey Gonzalez had a run-scoring single.
Columbus (20-5) answered with two in the top of the second and tied the game in the fifth when Danny Diaz was hit by a pitch from Killian starter Vladimir Nunez with the bases loaded and two outs. Nunez forced Christian Garabedian to ground out to keep the score tied.
But Columbus took a 4-3 lead in the sixth on Ramon Quintero’s run-scoring single.
The Explorers enter next week’s District 15-8A playoffs as the No. 1 seed and will play either Southwest or Coral Park in a semifinal Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Southwest.
Killian enters the District 16-8A playoffs also as a top seed and plays host to either Sunset or Varela in the semifinal round Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Southridge.
WP: Miguel DeGuzman (3-1). LP: Nick Silva.