State Baseball: Cougars' bats silent in season-ending loss to Crusaders

Middleton: ‘It’s disappointing, but you tip your cap to Northwest Christian’

Skylar Brooks and Brock Ely collected the only two hits for a No. 9-ranked Chino Valley baseball team that rarely struggled with the bats this spring, dropping a 5-0 decision to Northwest Christian in the first round of the 3A state tournament Friday afternoon.

It is only the second shutout all season for the Cougars, which came into Friday’s state matchup in Surprise riding a season-high six-game winning streak, including a 2-1 win in extra innings over this same Crusaders club to win the 3A West title just two weeks ago.

“I’m proud of the guys,” Chino Valley skipper Mark Middleton said. “It’s disappointing, but you tip your cap to Northwest Christian. They are a great baseball club.”

A year ago, Chino Valley (16-8, 9-1 West) was shutout 10-0 by Mingus in the first round of the Division III playoffs.

The Cougars haven’t won a state playoff game since a 1-0 win over Blue Ridge in 2014. Last week’s 11-0 win over Monument Valley was a play-in game for the right to advance to state.

Northwest Christian (19-9, 9-1 West) has won two of the last three state championships, losing 2-1 to Sahuarita last season in the quarterfinals.

Brooks, the reigning 3A West Player of the Year, toed the rubber for Chino Valley on Friday, surrendering three runs on five hits while striking out five on 4-1/3 innings pitched.

“Skylar pitched so well today, he hit his spots. Nothing was hit hard off him today,” Middleton said.

For the Crusaders, Jarin Davis went the distance, recording a two-hit shutout while striking out seven and walking just two.

“He was changing speeds really well. … I think it was our approach, we were guessing, not reacting,” Middleton said. “He shut us down. He had us guessing, and that’s the kiss of death.”

Noah Gray was 2 for 4 with two RBIs and a run scored, while Zac Driscoll was 1 for 3 with two RBIs. Gray, Driscoll and Logan Ripple each had RBI singles during a three-run rally in the fifth to put the game away.

UP NEXT

Chino Valley: Season over.

Northwest Christian: The No. 8-seeded Crusaders will play either No. 1-ranked Holbrook (24-5, 8-2 East) or No. 16-ranked Empire today at 1 p.m. in Surprise. Results were unavailable at press time.

Brian M. Bergner Jr. is associate sports editor and columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, Periscope and SoundCloud at @SportsWriter52, or on Facebook at @SportsAboveTheFold. Reach him at bbergner@prescottaz.com or 928-445-3333, ext. 1106.