J.C. Ochoa closed out the regular season in grand fashion.
The Dakota Ridge catcher dug in with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning needing just a sacrifice fly to tie the game or a solid hit to win it.
The senior got it all.
Ochoa drilled a fast ball from Chaparral reliever Steven Matthews over the scoreboard in left field for a walk-off grand slam as the Eagles dropped the Wolverines 16-12 in a Class 5A nonleague tuneup match.
"Sometimes we just get down in the dugout, then we know what to do in the late innings to find a way," Ochoa said. "Always."
The home run was Ochoa’s second of the day and the ninth of the game as the Eagles’ home field lived up to its reputation as the kind of park hitters dream of. Dakota Ridge improved to 17-2, while Chaparral, which hit six homers, dropped to 13-6.
There was little doubt, however, with Ochoa’s blast. Having already taken a curve ball over the fence with a solo shot in the second inning before adding a run-scoring double, Ochoa figured the Wolverines would pitch him differently after intentionally walking Eric Cain to load the bases with one out in the seventh.
"I just knew a fastball was coming again," said Ochoa, who finished 3-for-5 with six RBIs.
Drew Phelan, David Whitaker, Zach Porter and Cameron Pritchett each had two hits and Phelan drove in four runs for the Eagles. Ty Rosco was 1-for-2 with a two-run homer in the fourth inning.
The lead exchanged hands five times and both teams used their bullpen liberally while looking ahead to Saturday’s district playoff tournament.
Reliever Andrew Melton got the win for the Eagles, despite allowing three runs in the top of the sixth to put Chaparral up 12-11. Melton retired the side in the seventh, striking out two, before the Eagles worked their late-game magic.
No. 8 hitter Zach Porter reach safely on a chopper to shortstop to lead off the seventh, and Ben Espinosa put down a perfect bunt toward the shortstop to get the winning run aboard with no outs. Phelan flied out to shallow center field before the Wolverines walked Cain to face Ochoa.
"I think more than the quality of the team is the quality of the kids," Eagles skipper Jeff Legault said. "They’re just winners. They just find a way. There’s never any doubt."
While the Eagles have shown they can swing the bats with any team in the state, Legault said at the beginning of the season that the pitching staff was solid but not yet hardened.
"It’s a minor surprise. We have six guys that can throw," Legault said. "I think the question is on us, we can hit, but do we have the pitching depth? I think we do."
J.J. Jaramillo started the game and allowed just one run in two innings of work. David Whitaker took over and was touched up for six runs on three hits – all home runs – in the third inning. Kenny Brown took over in the fourth and gave up two runs as the Wolverines tied the score 9-9.
Dakota Ridge regained the lead with two runs in the bottom of the fourth on Rosco’s home run, but the Wolverines got to Melton and regained the lead on a double steal attempt that occupied the Eagles long enough to score Chaparral’s Matthew Burton from third.