SCOTTSDALE — After the Nogales baseball team lost in the Division II state championship game Tuesday evening, coach O.J. Favela told his players to keep their heads up, even though it didn’t go as hoped.
It was, after all, somewhere the Apaches hadn’t been in more than three decades.
Top-seeded Phoenix Greenway played spoiler in Nogales’ long-awaited return with a five-run second inning on its way to an 8-0 win at Salt River Fields to beat the No. 4 Apaches for the second time in 11 days. The first loss against the Demons came in the double-elimination quarterfinals before Nogales reeled off three straight wins to reach the state finals for the first time since 1981.
“They wanted that other trophy, but I told them there was nothing to hang their heads about,” said Favela, who is in his 10th season as coach. “In 33 years at Nogales, a lot of guys have gone through the program and not gotten an opportunity to play for a state championship.
“We fell short, but these guys got there and gave us the opportunity to get one.”
With the help of three errors by Nogales, Greenway jumped out to a 6-0 lead after two innings and continuously deflated any hopes the Apaches had of a rally.
Senior ace Tyler Frost struck out eight and gave up five hits over seven scoreless innings for Greenway. He also struck out eight batters when the Demons beat Nogales 9-1 on May 9.
“They’re just a great ball club,” Favela said. “When Frost is on the mound, they think they can beat the Arizona Diamondbacks probably.”
Nogales (30-7) got an early offensive spark from senior captain and catcher Justin Felix who hit a two-out double off third base and down the line in the top of the first, but he ended up stranded at second. But in their next three innings, the Apaches had only one runner on base, and Greenway had 12.
The Apaches had their best chance to score when junior Marcos Muñoz led off the fifth inning with a single up the middle and J.P. Rodriguez followed with a double to the left field corner.
“As soon as Marcus hit that ball up the middle I felt the dugout come alive again,” said senior David Oropeza, the shortstop and leadoff hitter. “We were dying down, but he got that hit, and I started to get pumped.”
But junior second baseman Jacobo Somoza hit a soft liner to Frost, and he threw to third to double off Muñoz before sophomore Jesus Solis grounded out to second to strand Rodriguez. Felix led off the seventh inning with an infield single for Nogales’ only hit the rest of the game.
“Growing up with these guys, it was just a dream to come out here and play for a state championship,” Felix said. “Ever since we were small, we wanted to come out here and play the game together, but now that it’s all over, there’s nothing much we can do. Every game was a good memory with these guys.”