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Phoenix goes flat in pivotal Skyline matchup

TALENT - Everything that could go wrong for the Phoenix baseball team did go wrong Tuesday afternoon at a most inopportune time for the Pirates.

With a chance to gain ground in a tight Skyline Conference race, Phoenix instead went backward in fumbling away a 12-3 game to Mazama at Hagler-James Field.

"Today we just played horrible," said Phoenix coach Joe Hagler, whose team had won seven of its previous eight games. "Outfield, infield, catching. We didn't hit any spots with our pitches. It was just everything."

After taking a 3-1 lead in the first inning, the Pirates managed only five hits over the remaining six innings. Phoenix also committed six errors and clipped its own wings with a handful of other miscues.

The loss dropped Phoenix (7-8, 7-4 Skyline), which is tied for third, 31/2 games behind first-place Henley (11-1 Skyline).

Mazama (10-7 overall) remained second at 9-3 in Skyline play, sweeping the three-game series with Phoenix for the first time in four years.

"That was a big game, and to have that stuff happen is just disappointing," Phoenix first baseman Jason Wolford said. "On routine plays, nobody could make them. On ground balls, we either couldn't field it or throw it, and the same thing happened in the outfield. Little things like that caught up to us."

Wolford was one of the reasons it looked like Phoenix might run away with Tuesday's game, following a leadoff single by Kevin Hudnall and a one-out double by Eric Kessler with a two-run double of his own.

After an RBI single by Nathan Emerson made it 3-1 against Mazama starter Chris Bocchi, it appeared the Vikings were in for a long day.

Instead, it was the other way around.

Bocchi faced more than four batters in an inning only once in the remaining six innings, striking out six against an impatient bunch of Pirate hitters.

"That first inning was a little rough," said Bocchi. "I kind of left some pitches right down the pipe, and they swing the stick pretty well.

"I knew I was going to have to step it up after that inning. For a while I thought this was going to be more of a hitter's duel than a pitcher's duel."

Bocchi helped spark Mazama at the plate following his rocky first inning, lacing a leadoff single in the second.

After Mark Manfull earned a walk, courtesy runner Ryan McGraw scooted around the bases on a bloop single by Tyler Conner to cut into the Phoenix lead. Manfull later tied the score following a wild pitch by Pirate starter Brady Rhodes.

Bocchi set down the Pirates in order in the second, then the game got ugly for Phoenix despite steady pitching from Brett Goble in relief of Rhodes.

After a wide throw to first by third baseman Ian McPhee allowed leadoff batter Dallas Hubble to reach safely in the third, Bocchi belted an RBI triple on a soaring shot to right-center field. The ball got caught up in the wind and eluded a diving Kessler after a long run from center field.

Manfull then drove in a run on a fielder's choice after being jammed by Goble to give Mazama a 5-3 lead.

Phoenix set the table for a big inning with no outs in the fourth with two straight singles by Emerson and McPhee, only to have Kenny Gehrig pop out to Manfull at catcher on an attempted sacrifice bunt and Kiffer Stovall fly out to left field.

After a walk to Hudnall loaded the bases, Ross Ellis fell behind in the count and, in protecting the plate, lunged for and hit a high chopper that third baseman Matt Starley had to wait under. With McPhee inexplicably not running on contact from second, Starley easily outraced him to third to help the Vikings escape any further damage.

"That inning right there was definitely the turning point," said Hagler. "If we get to third on that play, then it's 5-4 with the bases loaded and we have Kessler up at the plate with no place to put him."

Phoenix had only two hits from that point on against Bocchi.

"He's not overpowering or a big stud pitcher, but he gets the job done for us," Mazama coach Jeff Sturgeon said.

Bocchi also was 3-for-3 at the plate, scoring four times and driving in two.

Mazama........................................122 033 — - 12 12 0Phoenix.............................................300 000 0 - — 9 6

Bocchi and Manfull; Rhodes, Goble (3), Rhodes (6), Wolford (7) and R. Ellis. W - Bocchi (4-1). L - Goble (3-2). 2B - M: Bocchi; P: Kessler, Wolford. 3B - M: Bocchi.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail