The state tournament is two months away, but Thursday's Tucson Conquistadores Lancer Baseball Classic quarterfinal game between Sunnyside and Ironwood Ridge at Reid Park brought a glimpse of what the postseason could have in store.
After the Nighthawks tied the score in the top of the seventh, the Blue Devils responded in the bottom half of the inning with two hits. The second, a walk-off double to right field by Ely Ortiz, brought home Johnny Muniz for a 3-2 Sunnyside victory.
"It was amazing to get the opportunity to play against these guys, and it was a tough game," Ortiz said. "It was like a state playoff atmosphere."
Sunnyside (8-2) will face Sierra Vista Buena in the semifinals today at 4 p.m. The Lancer Baseball Classic's championship game is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The bottom of the seventh began when Sunnyside's Lazaro Nunez hit a ground ball to shortstop that Jake Matthews was unable to field cleanly, allowing Nunez to reach first.
Nighthawks coach Dennis Toia then went to his bullpen, replacing starter Travis Chavez with Jesus Ramerez.
The first batter Ramerez faced, Muniz, bunted back to the pitcher who immediately fired to second to get the lead runner. With Oscar Larranaga at the plate, Muniz stole second, putting the winning run in scoring position.
Larranaga then reached base on an infield single, setting up Ortiz's heroics.
The senior right fielder saw a pitch up in the zone and drove it to the right field corner, allowing Muniz enough time to cross home plate for the victory.
"His changeup was dirty," Ortiz said. "I am just glad he left me one up, and I am lucky I got a hold of it."
I-Ridge's offense, which has scored 181 runs this season, was kept in check for most of the game by Sunnyside starting pitcher Eddie Bacame.
The junior left-hander went six innings, allowing five hits. He walked six batters and struck out three.
"I just wanted to throw strikes and keep the ball low to them," Bacame said.
Bacame also received plenty of help from a defense that committed only one error. One of the highlight-reel defensive plays came in the top of the third, when Ryan Windish lined a shot toward the left field gap. Larranaga raced over from his centerfield position and made a diving catch.
"The coaches had me shifted over to the right, and I knew it was a left-handed hitter so the ball was slicing, but thankfully I got a good read on it," Larranaga said.
I-Ridge (11-2) came through with its first run of the game in the top of the sixth and took the momentum at the plate into its final at-bats.
After two hits from Ryan Neter and Chavez to start the top of the seventh, Muniz came in to relieve Bacame on the mound. Muniz struck out Windish and then issued an intentional walk to Matthews to bring up Devin Harrison with the bases loaded. Harrison sent a rocket to third baseman Sean Bracamontes, who fired home, trying to force the lead runner out. His throw bounced past the catcher, and the score was tied.
I-Ridge had two opportunities to take the lead in the inning, but Kurt Bailey hit into a force out, and a called strike three to Frankie Ortiz ended the threat.
"We gave ourselves a chance in that last inning," Toia said.
"You never want to lose, but you need to be in those situations so that you can overcome them later."
• What: Lancer Baseball Classic semifinals
• Who: Sunnyside vs. Sierra Vista Buena, Sahuaro vs. Canyon del Oro
• Where: Reid Park Annex
• When: 4 p.m. today
Note: Winners play in tournament championship game at 7 p.m.