Nogales batted around in back-to-back innings, scoring a combined seven runs in the fifth and sixth innings to beat Blanchard (Okla.) 12-8 and pull within one win of reaching the finals of the 22-team Spray Master Lancer Baseball Classic on Thursday.
Play continues today at Reid Park, capped off by the championship game at 7 p.m.
With the win, pitcher Anthony Martinez moved to 3-0, while the Apaches remain undefeated at 11-0.
Justin Felix gave Nogales an early lead when he belted a ball over the left-field fence in the first. But it was the Lions that found themselves in control after four innings, leading 5-1.
The Apaches’ Aloyisius Cruz cut it to 5-3 in the fifth with a two-run single, one of his three hits on the day. Two batters later, Marcus Munoz singled to tie it at 5-5.
Nogales took the lead for good on the next at-bat, as Angel Chavez doubled to left to make it 6-5. A Dallas Griffin double and a Jesus Solier single later, the Apaches took an 8-5 lead.
“It was the first time that we’ve put ourselves in that kind of hole this season,” Nogales coach O.J. Favela said. “We’ve been down a few runs before and bounced right back, but not four. It was good to see them know, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get this done.’”
In the sixth, Felix doubled to get the scoring started for the Apaches, driving in David Oropeza to make it 9-5.
Down 12-5 in the bottom of the inning, Blanchard responded with three runs on two walks and a pair of hits to close it to 12-8, but they would get no closer.
Felix, a New Mexico Military Institute commit who is still garnering interest from the University of Arizona and Oregon, tripled in the seventh and finished a single shy of hitting for the cycle.
“Not too many guys can hit the ball out of the park like that,” Favela said. “He’s playing with a lot to prove.”