Saturday’s Class 4A state championship game began with a hit over third base by Salpointe Catholic’s Ian Ponce. Two batters later, Ponce scored on a single by Efrain Cervantes.
It was a sign.
A sign that this game would follow the same path as the other two games Nogales and Salpointe played: a high-scoring battle until the final out.
Salpointe’s hot start didn’t translate into a happy ending.
Top-seeded Nogales won 13-4 at Hi Corbett Field, capturing its first state baseball championship since 1981. The Apaches (28-4) scored six first-inning runs and never looked back, denying Salpointe a chance at its first state title. The Lancers finished their season 25-8.
Alec Acevedo crushed a two-run double to the left-field wall in the first, sparking Nogales’ big inning.
Gera Lopez followed with a two-run double of his own, this one to right-center field for the only two hits of the inning. The rest of the runners got on board by six walks and a hit batter. The Apaches knocked Salpointe pitcher Jesus Carmona out of the game in the first.
“Those runs were huge,” Nogales coach OJ Favela said. “We got out of a few big innings and they never gave up. At the beginning of the game I told them to step through the door that was open for them.”
And they did, tacking on three more runs in the fourth to help shut that door.
BASEBALL: State tournament scores, schedules
SOFTBALL: State tournament scores, schedules
“The score was the same going into that inning (10-4) as that game we lost to them — where they scored nine in the seventh,” Favela said. “I wanted at least one more run so that didn’t happen again.”
Said Acevedo: “We prepared for this game. It doesn’t come down to my hits or his hits. It’s team hits. We win as a team.”
Salpointe Catholic had a few chances to come back, including loading the bases in the seventh inning. Ponce worked a 3-2 count, then flied out to the end the game.
Nogales’ players and coaches streamed onto the field, a mix of happiness and tears. There was a Gatorade shower.
Nogales came away impressed with its opponents, even with the lopsided final score.
“At the beginning of the year no one thought (Salpointe) would be here,” Favela said. “They put together timely hitting and pitching. I am extremely proud of what they accomplished this season.
“I told my team it was one more game and to do it for all the misses, all the kids who couldn’t get there. It was time to finish and they did.”
- Both teams’ colors are maroon and gold. Fans from Salpointe wore black T-shirts to match their team’s jerseys. While the Apaches fans came prepared — gold T-shirts with their Apache logo and #TakeState2K17.
- As with the semifinals on Wednesday night, the Nogales crowd took the drive up Highway 19 earlier in the day and filled up their half of the stadium within an hour of the first pitch. Lancers fans came in a bit later. With an estimated 3,200 fans in attendance, Nogales edged out Salpointe with fans in the stands.