Queen Creek gets over hump, wins 6A baseball title behind Tait Reynolds walk-off

May 14—Queen Creek sophomore Tait Reynolds said he was angry when he stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the 10th inning Tuesday night during the 6A baseball state championship game.

Senior infielder Jesse Aguirre tripled to start the inning, putting the Bulldogs in position to walk it off to win the title. That's when Sandra Day O'Connor elected to walk the next two batters, settling with Reynolds and, in a way, challenging him to beat them.

He settled into the box, saw the fastball and connected. The single to left field sent Aguirre home, and the rest of the Queen Creek team into a frenzy with a 7-6 win in extra innings.

"I was a little mad," Reynolds said of the intentional walks before him. "If I wasn't so mad I probably wouldn't have swung at that pitch. I probably would've took it. It is what it is. We got the win."

Queen Creek seemed down and out early on in the game. O'Connor came out and scored two quick runs in the first. The Bulldogs went down in order.

The Eagles came back in the second inning and increased their lead to four behind a Hunter Wheeler triple down the right field line that brought in two runs. It was at that point Queen Creek Head Coach Mikel Moreno decided to make a change on the mound, inserting senior Dylan Weekly to salvage the inning and give the Bulldogs a chance.

He gave up a run on his first pitch. He gave up one more in the third. Thereafter, he tossed six scoreless innings.

"Every day for us is championship day here, so it was just another day," Weekly said. "The stakes were higher. But for us, we prepare for this day like every other. When I went in there, Moreno prepared me for that. I have the best defense behind me."

With Weekly dealing on the mound and the defense behind him settling in, the bats came alive for the Bulldogs. Alex Gamboa drove in a run to stop the scoreless streak. They scored once more in the second.

A pass ball, followed by a Jet Berry RBI trimmed O'Connor's lead to just two runs in the third inning with no outs. That's when Manny Hoyos stepped up to the plate and blasted a two-run shot to left-center, tying the game.

"Five-zero and it's like, 'Holy cow.' We just had a little meeting, the first offensive meeting we had all year," Moreno said. "I was just like, 'Hey boys, it's OK, it's the second inning. Let's just keep working and having good at bats and chipping away.' They just kept fighting and making plays on defense.

"Hats off to O'Connor. They scrapped and they played."

The innings that followed became a pitching duel between Weekly and O'Connor senior Brody Jacobs. Both gave up hits but the defense behind them allowed them to get out of jams and keep the other team scoreless.

That is, until Reynolds walked it off in the 10th.

O'Connor Head Coach Jeff Baumgartner said the reason they intentionally walked two batters after the triple with one out came down to the matchup. He believes it put them in a position to get a force out to get out of the inning.

Instead, Reynolds — the starting quarterback for the Queen Creek football team who fields multiple major Division I offers — delivered.

"[Reynolds] is a physical specimen," Moreno said. "He's a baseball player playing football. I know he's getting recruited by all these big schools, but there's nothing he can't do on the baseball field. He's unbelievable and our senior class is unbelievable."

The win marks the first state title for Queen Creek since 1989, when the school participated in the 2A Conference. It also comes after a year in which the Bulldogs lost to Hamilton in the state title game and two years after they were disqualified due to a pitch count error.

Moreno suspended himself for the 2022-23 season as a result of the error, taking full responsibility. But he didn't see this season as a revenge tour of sorts. He didn't even see it as redemption. As soon as last season ended, he put it behind him and went to work trying to take the Bulldogs back to the title game and get over the hump.

They did. And as a self-proclaimed hard coach to play for, he's proud of the effort and resiliency his team showed to overcome adversity and hoist the gold glove.

"I'm so proud of our boys, it's unbelievable," Moreno said. "I'm tough on them. This is a great reward for them and the hard work they put in. I'm very demanding. But these boys responded and I'm just so happy for our boys, their parents and our community."

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