Nogales High School’s baseball team continues to challenge for state titles under coach O.J. Favela, who led the Apaches to championships in 2017 and 2018 and reached the final in 2019.
Top-seeded Nogales (31-3) defeated No. 9 Scottsdale Desert Mountain 5-3 Thursday night at Mesa’s HoHoKam Stadium to reach the 5A state championship game Tuesday against No. 3 Buckeye Verrado (25-5). The game is at 4 p.m. at Tempe Diablo Stadium.
Favela, who is 370-153-2 in his 18th season as Nogales’ coach, has reached the 30-win plateau in a season for the third time and has not endured a losing record since his first season in 2005.
The Apaches have won 11 of their past 12 games. Verrado is 17-1 in its last 18 games.
Derek Montijo, a junior third baseman, led the Apaches against Desert Mountain on Thursday going 3 for 4 with a two-run single in the fourth with two outs to give his team a 3-1 lead.
After Desert Mountain cut the lead to 4-2 in the top of the fifth, Nogales answered with a run in the bottom half with Luis Martin Romero’s RBI single with no outs. The hit scored junior designated hitter Sergio Valverde, who was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, stole second and moved to third on an errant throw while to trying to pick him off.
Desert Mountain cut the lead to 5-3 after Kyle Pettigrew led off the sixth with a double and scored on Drew Kasianko’s single.
Nogales senior right-hander Saul Soto then overpowered the Wolves striking out the last three batters of the sixth and retiring the side in the seventh.
Soto relieved sophomore right-hander Salvador Valenzuela with two outs in the fifth. He allowed two hits in his 2 1/3 innings of work with an unearned run, four strikeouts and no walks.
Valenzuela (9-0) scattered six hits in his 4 2/3 innings while striking out one and walking one.
Romero and junior centerfielder Gerardo Paco each went 2 for 3. Valenzuela helped his cause with an RBI double in the second inning.
NOGALES BASEBALL STATE CHAMPIONS