GLENDALE - Sahuaro scored four times in the bottom of the seventh inning on Thursday, but it was too late to overcome an early seven-run deficit against Phoenix Sunnyslope.
The fourth-seeded Cougars lost 8-5 to Sunnyslope at Camelback Ranch Stadium in the third round of the Division II state tournament and will now drop to the losers bracket. There, they will face No. 8 Yuma Gila Ridge on Saturday at 3 p.m. in a win-or-go-home game at Surprise Stadium.
Sahuaro (25-5) had early trouble offensively with Calvin Lebrun, the starter for No. 5 Sunnyslope.
He gave up just two hits in the first four innings.
"He's as good as Arizona has seen in the last two years," Sahuaro coach Mark Chandler said. "He's undefeated, he's got a state championship under his belt; he's a quality pitcher.
"We touched him up a little bit and hit the ball hard."
Senior Frankie Silva got the Cougars on the board in the bottom of the fifth inning with an RBI single to left, but Sunnyslope answered that run in its next at-bat with an RBI double to go up 8-1.
"It was pretty big to start the momentum but I guess it just wasn't enough," Silva said.
Sahuaro made a last desperate attempt in the seventh to pull off the win, loading the bases and registering five hits, two of which went for extra bases.
Junior Alex Verdugo hit a bases-loaded sac fly to bring in the first run, then starting pitcher Vinnie Tarantola hit a two-run double to left with two outs.
"I never lose confidence in this team," Tarantola said. "We've gone through so much together and have dealt through adversity all season and played good baseball."
Sunnyslope (26-4-1) jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first on a three-run double by Royal Love after Tarantola hit Ryan Oberg to load the bases.
The Vikings added another run in the third inning with the help of two errors and then three more runs an inning later - with the help of four hits and another error - to take a 7-0 lead.
"That's what we pride ourselves on for 25 wins," Chandler said. "Playing good defense, good pitching and we just didn't have those two tonight."