PHOENIX — It’s been 33 years, but the Nogales baseball team is going back to the state title game.
The Apaches avenged a regular-season loss to Sahuaro on Saturday, giving the team its first trip to the state finals since 1981.
Fourth-seeded Nogales upset No. 2 Sahuaro 7-5 in the Division II semifinals at Maryvale Baseball Park, forcing a rematch with top-seeded Phoenix Greenway on Tuesday night.
Greenway beat Nogales 9-1 earlier in the playoffs.
“This means a lot,” Nogales coach O.J. Favela said of the win over Sahuaro. “I told these guys a long time ago, ‘You only get to play high school baseball once,’ and they didn’t want it to end. People keep saying ’81, ’81. Well, ’81 is a long time ago.”
Sahuaro (24-7) struck first in the bottom of the second inning when senior Andrew Black, the Cougars’ No. 8 hitter, singled up the middle to bring home two runs.
Nogales (30-6) scored two runs in the top of the fourth inning on four hits and an error. In the next frame, with runners on second and third base, senior catcher Al Cruz tripled to center. Senior Justin Felix followed with an RBI single to give Nogales a 5-2 lead.
Senior Alan Garcia singled to center in the seventh inning and then Felix drove him in on an RBI double. Cruz’s triple then provided another insurance run.
“We haven’t had 12 hits in awhile,” said Garcia, who finished 2 for 4. “We were all on the same page today.”
After starting pitcher Issac Lopez and Angel Zuniga combined for six innings, allowing just two runs, the Sahuaro bats came to life. Trailing by five runs and down to its last out, the Cougars rallied to scrape across three runs, but could get no closer than 7-5.
“You got to give those guys credit, they put it on us,” Sahuaro coach Mark Chandler said. “I’m glad we didn’t go down without a fight.”
“These seniors have won more games than any other group here at Sahuaro. These guys were 20-0 at home in two years and won 51 games. We just ran into a hotter team.”
Nogales plays Phoenix Greenway on Tuesday at the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick at 4:30 p.m.
“It’s going to take a near-perfect performance,” Favela said.