TEMPE — The No. 3 Sahuarita Mustangs fell to the No. 2 Saguaro Sabercats 9-1 on Wednesday night in the 4A semifinals at Diablo Stadium.
The two are now set to meet once again in an elimination game on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Diablo Stadium for a spot in the state championship next week against No. 5 Canyon del Oro.
It will be the fourth meeting between Sahuarita (24-6) and Saguaro (24-8) this season. The Sabercats have won two of the three previous games.
“We faced this team in the Lancer Classic back in March, and we faced them a week ago, and it’s a battle every time we play them,” Sahuarita coach Sam Gelardi said. “We’re looking for a battle.”
After run-ruling the Sabercats last week, Saguaro came back with a vengeance. Powered behind two strong innings, the Sabercats were able to pull away with the victory.
Things initially looked promising for the Mustangs, who were on the board first in the bottom of the first inning thanks to an RBI double by sophomore Vince Garcia.
Saguaro wasted no time countering and broke things open to start the top of the second.
With runners on base and two outs, freshman Zander Bratspis had an RBI double to tie the game at 1. Sophomore Cam Caminiti followed Bratspis with a two-run RBI double, pushing the lead to 3-1. Junior Cade Shumar was up next, giving Saguaro its third consecutive RBI and extending the lead to 4-1.
“They were in an elimination game so they were hungry,” Gelardi said. “We knew they’d be ready to play tonight and obviously they showed it.”
Sahuarita attempted to counter and tie the game in the bottom of the second and bottom of the third, but its efforts were unsuccessful. Looking to add on more security runs, Saguaro continued pushing the lead in the top of the fourth inning.
Shumar got the ball rolling for Saguaro with the first RBI of the inning to push the lead to 5-1 before junior Billy Gregory followed him in the lineup by laying down an RBI double. In the groove, Saguaro was able to pick up yet another RBI, this one coming from Dougie McKeddie.
Helping to push the lead further, Grant Madrid-Murray hit a two-run RBI single to make it 9-1 Saguaro and force a pitching change from Sahuarita.
The Mustangs attempted to rally but just couldn’t get the bats going, ultimately falling to the Sabercats 9-1.
“Their big bats came out and made timely hits,” Gelardi said. “We did not get the timely hits. We couldn’t get any traffic going on the bases. I tip my hat to them. They were prepared and they executed.”
Thanks to pool play, the two will face off once again to determine who will earn a state championship berth since both now have a loss in the tournament.
“Our season is still alive,” Gelardi said. “We’re still where we were tonight. We’re still one game away from going to the championship game. We still have another game so we’re feeling confident and we still have some horses left.”