BB: Fountain Hills cramps Empire's style

Empire graciously accepts the runner-ups trophy from the AIA.
Empire graciously accepts the runner-ups trophy from the AIA.

SURPRISE, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Empire senior shortstop Ryan Stewart battled cramps throughout the latter stages of Saturday's Division III Baseball State Championship game at Surprise Stadium.

In the seventh inning with the game on the line the cramps won out and allowed Fountain Hills to walk away with the Ravens' rings.

The Falcons came from 4-0 down early to beat Empire 5-4 when Fountain Hills Paul Bryniarski ran threw a stop sign at third base and scored on an infield single by Ethan Fett.

Stewart kept Fett's grounder deep in the hole on the infield, but cramped up as he dove to make the stop. Despite that he still made a perfect throw to the plate but unfortunately not in time to get Bryniarski.

"I just tried to give it my all, tried to get him," said Stewart. "I thought he was personally out but I guess that's just the way it works out. I'm so proud of this team and so proud of what's happened here."

Empire entered the state tournament as a 13th seed and fell in the Championship game for the second time in four years.

"You spend six days a week with these kids for four months and for it to come down to this, playing in the state championship game, you couldn't ask for anything else," said Ravens head coach Tom Belter.

Empire loaded the bases in the top of the seventh and had a chance to take the lead but Connor Guerts liner was right at the Falcons second baseman Fett.

Sophomore Donny Sands pitched all seven innings for Empire. He allowed three runs in the 4th and allowed Fountain Hills to tie the game on a wild pitch in the 6th.

Belter indicated after the game that Empire will move up to Division II next season in Baseball. The Ravens lost in the 3A title game in Chino Valley in 2010.

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