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High school baseball

Sabino rallies past Sahuarita to win state baseball title

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Sabino pitcher Preston Clifford, bottom center, gets mobbed by teammates after the Sabercats beat Sahuarita for their first state title since 1997. “My adrenaline is going through the roof,” Clifford said.

After 21 years, Sabino is once again state champion.

The Sabercats took advantage of Sahuarita errors and free bases for an explosive fifth inning and beat the Mustangs 6-4 in the Class 3A baseball state championship Monday at Hi Corbett Field.

“My adrenaline is going through the roof,” Sabino starting pitcher Preston Clifford said. “I’m not going to feel it until tomorrow, but I still feel pretty good right now.”

Just like in Saturday’s semifinal game against Empire, the Sabercats had to come from behind for the win.

In the second inning, Sahuarita loaded the bases. With two outs, Edwin Martinez doubled to left to score all three runners and give the Mustangs a 3-0 early lead.

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Antonio Fernandez Jr. takes a cut during the Arizona 3A baseball championship game at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson on May 14, 2018.

It was the third time this postseason Sabino had to rally.

“When they put up the three, you could see the guys were a little nervous, but you didn’t see the heads and the shoulders down,” Sabino coach Mark Chandler said. “We were going to chip, put the ball in play and make something happen.”

Sahuarita coach Sam Gelardi said he knew the three-run lead wouldn’t be able to hold the Sabercats.

“We knew that wasn’t going to be enough,” Gelardi said.

Sure enough, the Sabercats did chip away.

In the third, the Sabercats found themselves with the bases loaded. Tyler Whiltshire’s at-bat resulted in a double play, but it scored a run to make it 3-1.

Andres Villasenor then singled to center to score Clifford and make it a one-run game.

After a scoreless fourth, Sabino took command with four runs in the fifth.

Pinch-hitter Anthony Colombino started the inning with a walk and then took second on a wild pitch. Whiltshire reached on an infield single, and then Villasenor singled in Colombino to tie the game at 3.

After managing two outs, a Mustang error handed Sabino two more runs and the lead.

A hit-by-pitch with the bases loaded produced the final run of the inning.

“You’re not going to beat a team like Sabino when you make three errors in an inning, let alone in a game,” Gelardi said. “We knew we had our hands full coming in.”

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Sahuarita hitter Angel Ortiz goes down at the plate during the Arizona 3A baseball championship game at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson on May 14, 2018.

Sahuarita managed one more run in the sixth, but couldn’t get closer.

Clifford struck out nine batters, while Sahuarita’s starting pitcher Chris Barraza struck out six.

“Clifford epitomizes what a competitor is. We made a game-time decision today with his arm,” Chandler said.

“I was going to treat him like he’s my own, keep an eye on him. Kid’s got a future.”

Contact reporter Norma Gonzalez at 520-262-3265 or ngonzalez@tucson.com.