After allowing the most runs all season the game prior, fourth-seeded Nogales bounced back Tuesday with a 5-1 victory against No. 11 Cave Creek Cactus Shadows , earning a spot in the final four of the Division II state baseball tournament.
The Apaches play No. 12 Yuma Gila Ridge on Thursday at 4 p.m., but still need two victories to reach the state finals after being sent down to the losers’ bracket following a 9-1 loss to No. 1 Phoenix Greenway on Friday.
“If anyone can go through the losers’ bracket, it’s us,” coach O.J. Favela said.
While Nogales (26-6) finally got some runs , it was starting pitcher Angel Zuniga who was the difference Tuesday night at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix. The sophomore’s complete-game gem was exactly what the team needed, Favela said.
“It was clutch,” he said of Zuniga’s performance. “He wasn’t perfect, but he did enough to battle and win the game.”
A single by junior Marcus Munoz broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the third inning. Nogales tacked on two more with infield hits by senior J.P. Rodriguez and junior Jacobo Somoza.
With no outs in the bottom of the fourth, the Apaches loaded the bases after back-to-back walks.
Cactus Shadows’ Matt Atkinson was able to escape unharmed after three straight strikeouts, though, as Nogales started to chase his “wildly effective” throws, Favela said.
Nogales’ Dallas Griffin put the game out of reach with a single in the fifth that scored Somoza. Following a wild pitch that moved Griffin to third, the senior scored on a bunt single by David Oropeza for the Apaches’ final run.
After winning 23 games and reaching the second stage of the losers’ bracket last season, Favela set goals of improving both by one game this year. Nogales had well-surpassed the 24 win mark, and the victory Tuesday clinched goal No. 2.
But the Apaches aren’t done yet, with Gila Ridge on deck. Nogales beat the Hawks 1-0 last Wednesday in the opening round of double-elimination play.