PHOENIX – After Sahuaro’s baseball team lost to top-seeded Phoenix Greenway in the Division II state tournament Thursday night, senior Vinnie Tarantola had something to tell Demons ace Tyler Frost.
“I would definitely love to see that team again,” said Tarantola, who doubled in the loss. “I told him, ‘I’ll see you on Tuesday.’
“There’s not a question in my mind we won’t see him on Tuesday.”
The second-seeded Cougars were shut out 4-0 against Greenway at Maryvale Baseball Park after averaging more than 10 runs their first three playoff games, but still have another chance to reach the state finals for the first time since 2007.
“I’m liking our chances to win a state championship,” Tarantola said. “That’s all I can say.”
Sahuaro (24-6) will return to the same stadium on Saturday to play No. 4 Nogales to earn a spot in Tuesday’s state championship game. The Cougars beat the Apaches 3-2 on the road this season and topped them 4-3 in an elimination game in the 2013 postseason.
“We know them and they know us,” Sahuaro coach Mark Chandler said. “We’ve had great games over the last four years with that squad and it’s going to be another good one Saturday.”
Sahuaro left-handed pitcher Alex Verdugo was celebrating his 18th birthday Thursday and had struck out seven batters and given up one run through four innings. However, Greenway came to life offensively in the fifth inning and posted three runs, two of which came on a double to the right side.
Tarantola struck out two batters in relief to get out of the fifth inning and keep the Cougars in the game but they could only come up with one more hit in the final two innings.
Both Tarantola and Chandler were happy with the team’s performance at the plate. Although no one was able to come up with the big hit, the Cougars made good contact and forced the Demons to play defense as Frost finished with just three strikeouts.
Like Tarantola, Verdugo would like to have another shot at Greenway next week. If the Cougars do get past Nogales on Saturday night with Justin Hammergren on the mound, Verdugo said it would be important to have a flawless performance on all ends of the game to win the rematch.
“I’ll pitch against them again and this time they’ll be shut out,” Verdugo said. “Hopefully we see them Tuesday.”
play Sahuaro next
Fourth-seeded Nogales gave up a run in the top of the first inning but answered right back with three in the bottom half with the help of a triple from senior captain Justin Felix and it never trailed again on its way to a 5-3 victory over No. 12 Yuma Gila Ridge on Thursday.
The Apaches (28-6) will play No. 2 Sahuaro on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. at Maryvale Baseball Park with a chance to reach the state finals for the first time since 1981.
Senior Alan Sinouhui had been sick all of last week and missed an earlier start in the playoffs but bounced back with a five-inning outing for the win.
“The kids are playing with a lot of confidence and they’re having fun,” Nogales coach O.J. Favela said.