Phoenix Christian beats Willcox 9-2 in the 2A baseball state championship, May 13, 2017.
Steven Cochran wasn’t rattled after Willcox scored two runs off of him in the second inning for a 2-0 lead.
Cochran’s bat gave Phoenix Christian the lead, and his arm preserved the school’s first state baseball championship since 2003 in a 9-2 victory Saturday at Maryvale Baseball Park in the 2A Conference final.
With the bases loaded and one out in the seventh, Cochran was determined to finish what he started.
He ended it with a double-play strikeout, and the gloves went soaring in the air as the celebration began.
“It felt great,” said Cochran, who took the mound for every big game for the Cougars during their 25-5 season. “We always expected to win. We always expected to push each to be the best. We always expected to get to this place.”
It took a mid-season addition, senior outfielder Tyller Graham, to help solidify Phoenix Christian, which won its fourth state title.
Graham now can claim a state football championship at Glendale Joy Christian and state baseball title at Phoenix Christian in his final two years of high school.
After transferring from Joy Christian, he had to sit out the first five games of the football season. This spring, he had to miss the first 13 baseball games, because of the Arizona Interscholastic Association transfer rule.
Once he came on board, he was rock solid. He hit .460 with 23 RBIs in 16 games. On Saturday, he had one hit. But his presence was vital for Phoenix Christian to make its run to the title.
“It’s a humbling experience,” Graham said. “I didn’t even think we were going to do this. We worked our butts off.”
BASEBALL: State tournament scores, schedules
SOFTBALL: State tournament scores, schedules
Graham didn’t have his best game Saturday, but coach Mark Band called him “a difference to our team.”
“We were out to a pretty good start even without him,” said Band in his 14th season as head coach. “He just made us that much better.”
Band had faith in Cochran on the mound. But it was his bat — a two-run single during a four-run third — that gave Phoenix Christian a 3-2 lead.
Phoenix Christian racked up 13 hits, three by Adrian Santa Cruz, who had an RBI double in the sixth.
Cochran gave up two of his five hits in the final inning.
“Steven has pitched every big game and he’s beaten some really good teams,” Band said. “I figured if we could hold them to two, we’d get back in the game. That was kind of their inning. It could have been worse. We got out of it.”
Willcox (18-5) scored two runs in the second to take a 2-0 lead on a hit batter, three singles and an error.