GLENDALE - Ironwood Ridge had won 10 consecutive games coming into Thursday night's showdown with the defending state champions.
But the No. 6 Nighthawks had yet to play Phoenix Sunnyslope during that winning streak.
With a chance at the finals on the line, the No. 5 Vikings used timely hitting in the first two innings to jump out to an early 4-1 lead. Sunnyslope went on to win 8-3 over I-Ridge in the Division II state tournament.
"It seemed to give them some momentum early," Nighthawks coach Dennis Toia said. "They got the two-out hit when they needed it and we didn't."
I-Ridge will play Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep at 6 p.m. Saturday at Camelback Ranch.
The winner of that game will play Sunnyslope on Tuesday for the state title.
"I don't know if we've ever lost back-to-back since I've been here," Toia said. "These guys are great at responding."
Overly-aggressive base running by Ironwood Ridge in the third inning squandered the Nighthawks' best chance at hanging a crooked number on the Vikings, as they scored just one run after the first three batters of the inning got on base.
Moments after his second single of the game scored the second Nighthawks run to cut the deficit to 4-2, senior shortstop Jake Matthews was picked off first.
Later in the inning, senior Frankie Ortiz was thrown out trying to score.
"We wanted to put pressure on them," Toia said. "Force them to make plays and they did."
• Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep 10, Sahuaro 4: In Glendale, No. 4 Sahuaro was eliminated from postseason play after suffering its second defeat of the tournament, this time in the semifinals.
The Cougars jumped out to an early lead, scoring a pair of runs on a fielder's choice and an error in the top of the second after loading the bases on a pair of singles and a walk.
But with the help of three walks, three bunts and three errors, the Saints scored five in the bottom of the third.
"You commit that many errors, you're not going to beat anyone," Sahuaro coach Mark Chandler said. "We just didn't take care of the baseball and it cost us."
Notre Dame put the game out of reach the following inning with five more runs.