BISBEE — Before stepping into the batter’s box for his final at-bat of the Bisbee Pumas’ game against Benson High School Saturday morning, Luke Hammett received a hug from his dad and head coach Todd Hammett in foul territory on the third base side.
With two strikes and two teammates on base in front of him, the senior singled up the middle to load the bases, in what many fear could be the last game of the season, with schools across the state and nation shutting down and suspending athletic programs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bisbee defeated the Benson Bobcats 14-1 in the Pumas’ final game of their home invitational held at Warren Ballpark.
David Ballesteros had a strong game on the mound for the Pumas and was able to get out of any hiccups along the way with the help of the defense behind him. He pitched three of the five innings and was relieved by D’Marco Chavez, who struck out four of the six batters he faced. Every Puma who stepped in the batter’s box reached base at least once Saturday.
Both coaches agreed to play the full five inning game or the hour and a half time allotment, whichever came first, instead of concluding early because of the scoring rules, to give their players more time on the field in a season that may be cut short.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association announced via email on Thursday they were leaving the decision to cancel games, tournaments and programs up to individual schools and districts. However, the board will discuss a possible action plan at Monday’s executive board meeting in Phoenix.
“If events are cancelled or changed specifically due to COVID-19, the AIA will waive the fees associated with this,” Thursday’s statement by the AIA read. “There will be discussion with the Executive Board on Monday, March 16 at its next meeting. Board members and Executive Director David Hines will be reviewing information gathered from the governor’s office, the Maricopa County Health Department and the National Federation.”
Seven teams from Southern Arizona participated in the four-day tournament held at the historic ballpark, but only six finished after San Miguel pulled out after their Friday afternoon game against Tombstone. They Yellow Jackets shutout the Vipers, who struggled on the mound and with player turnout.
San Miguel left Bisbee after their game against Tombstone, with two more scheduled games, because school administrators had suspended all athletics programs indefinitely and the school was being closed.
According to the San Miguel Joint Union School District Schools’ website, the schools “will be closed from March 16, 2020 through March 27, 2020. We will reassess the situation by March 27 to determine whether or not to extend the closures.”
St. David, Willcox and San Manuel rounded out this years tournament participants. Bisbee was undefeated in their games with wins over St. David, Willcox and Benson. Tombstone also had a strong start with a 10-8 win over Benson in their first game of the tournament and recorded a shutout win over the Vipers in their second.
Their final two games were played after press time.
Bisbee and St. David baseball and softball teams are scheduled to play in Bisbee on Monday, pending the AIA executive meeting. Bisbee’s baseball and softball games scheduled for Tuesday against Pima have been postponed due to Pima Unified School District being closed due to a Pima Elementary staff member testing positive for the coronavirus.