For West Valley Preps
The Millennium Tigers came into this first round playoff game with a sense of confidence in their game plan and a knowledge that if they played their game they would advance past the first round this year.
Its 2018 campaign resulted in a 6A first round tournament loss that many of the then-juniors on the team still remember.
It also helps to know your opponent. Millennium defeated their first round foe, Gilbert Williams Field, two weeks prior, winning in 7-4.
Millennium’s choice to use last year’s first round loss against Mesa Mountain View as motivation to get over that hump this year is mindset instilled by second year head coach, Jerod Burleson.
“We were junior heavy last year. They got a taste of success and to fall short in the end it was only going to benefit us in the long run,” said coach Burleson.
That mind-set along with stellar defensive play and pitching from senior pitcher David Enriquez, catapulted the Tigers into the second round, as they went onto win Saturday’s 5A first round game 7-0.
“We were locked in from the beginning. We had a lot of confidence in our hitting and our fielding and we were able to do it this time,” said Enriquez. “We’re just extremely confident right now.”
No. 6 Millennium moves on to play No. 14 Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep at 4 p.m. Monday at HoHokam Stadium in Mesa.
The Tigers played the Saints on April 15 in a losing effort, 8-3. Then again, as in this game, it can help knowing your opponent.
But this is tournament baseball and the stakes are even higher. Millennium will be ready for the challenge on Monday.
“They’re a well-coached team and I think often times that’s the most dangerous tool when it comes to good high school team. Bryan Fischer does a good job over there and those kids can play,” said Burleson.
Saturday, the Tigers got on the board first in the bottom of the first inning capitalizing with runners in scoring position. With runners on first and second Millennium’s Cole Tofil smashed an RBI single down the center line to bring in Alex Figueroa for the early lead.
The scoring dried up in the second as pitchers for both teams were able to make quick work of the first three batters at the plate. Williams Field demonstrated good infield play on the ball closed out the inning with a sweet shortstop snag and putout, keeping the Black Hawks within striking distance down 1-0.
Enriquez connected on an RBI single in the third smashing the ball just over the outstretched mitt of the Black Hawks first baseman, to bring in the runner from second. Millennium now led 2-0.
Enriquez, made quick work of the Williams Field line up in the top of the fourth. There was a brief scare, however, as the third Black Hawk batter came just a couple of feet close to hitting a ball over the center field fence.
Williams Field had too many fielding errors in the bottom of the fourth to stay within reach. The Tigers went on a five run tear initiated by a two-run double off the bat of Robert Schmidt.
The Black Hawks were able to put a lid on the errors from the fourth as the match progressed, but they still weren’t able to garner any positive momentum on offense until the top of the seventh.
Not to be sent home without a fight, the Black Hawks did put Enriquez in a tight spot. With two outs Enriquez walked the third batter.
On the ensuing play Millennium committed an error at second. With runners at first and second the next batter hit a long single to right field, loading the bases.
After a brief meeting at the mound, Enriquez was able to get the fourth batter out on a fly ball to left field.
“There’s something about seniors. Sometimes the game gets away from you but they’re able to get over adversity. In that moment I just let them know that there’s zeroes across the board. Even if they hit a grand slam you can finish this. So get in there and go finish it,” said Burleson when asked about that seventh inning stretch.