A Valley baseball team is mourning the loss of one of its players, while at the same time, celebrating a win at the state semifinals.
Verrado High School just beat Notre Dame Prep. But they did it bearing a heavy weight.
Playing at Tempe Diablo Stadium Thursday night, it was possibly the hardest game the team will every play.
But they were not alone. They had friends, family, and even the opposing team to help them remember No. 6.
Just one week ago, 17-year-old Verrado pitcher Bryan McKinsey threw the last strike of the game, earning his team their ticket to the state semifinals.
A game Bryan would never get to play.
The high school junior died unexpectedly in his home Wednesday.
"It's hard, it's definitely hard. He was one of those kids that just lit up the room," said Brayden O'Toole, one of Bryan's long-time baseball buddies.
Without him, his team was faced with a difficult decision.
"The coach had them take a vote yesterday whether they wanted to play the game today, and they all said, 'Yeah, it's what we gotta do,'" said Rhonda King, grandmother of another Verrado baseball player.
Before the first pitch, his teammates held his jersey for a moment of silence.
Then it was time to play ball for Bryan. "Winning for him, playing for him, 100 percent," said Brandon Cook, another one of Bryan's friends.
There are still very few answers about what happened, but Bryan's father Daryl says being with his son's team brings him comfort.
"It's been 36 hours and I have a smile on my face, it helps tremendously. I just hope that it helps everybody else as much," he said.
Between the hugs and the tears, on the field the team played a great game, beating Notre Dame 13 to 3.
"The boys mean the world to me, they meant the world to Bryan," said Daryl. "They were family."
Verrado will advance to play in the title game on Tuesday.
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