The Class 4A Gila Region baseball race got even closer Tuesday.
Sahuarita, riding an eight-game win streak, could have clinched the league title with a win over second-place Catalina.
But Catalina (20-6 overall, 8-2 in league play) had other plans, beating the host Mustangs 3-1 in nine innings to pull within a half game of Sahuarita (17-4, 9-2).
“This ties us in the loss column, but we’re a half game behind because we have played fewer games,” said Catalina coach Tony Gabusi. “We’ve got two (games) to play and they have one game.
“We’ve put ourselves where we want to be going into the regional (tournament next week). You want to be at the top rather the bottom fighting to get in. We’ve been playing good baseball like this the last three weeks. The guys are ready.”
Sahuarita can clinch at least a tie for the conference title with a win Thursday at Palo Verde. Catalina plays Palo Verde on Wednesday and Douglas on Thursday.
“Our goal was to win the conference and go to the state playoffs,” Sahuarita coach Sam Gelardi said. “We think we have enough (power) points to get in. Hopefully, we can win the conference with a win Thursday.”
Catalina and Sahuarita are in the top eight in the 4A-II Power Rankings, putting them in line for potential first-round home games in the state tournament.
Both teams got outstanding pitching performances from their starters Tuesday. Catalina’s Robert Pearson went six innings and Sahuarita’s Josh Scoggin turned in 8 1/2 innings.
Anthony Romero pitched the last two innings to record the win for Catalina.
“Robert Pearson did a great job,” Gabusi said. “His strike one efficiency got better at the middle and end of the game. We preach that every game. Anthony came in with strike one almost every hitter. That was huge. Robert was a little under the weather but he sucked it up today.”
Each team managed just six hits in the extra-inning game.
“We didn’t get the runs early that we needed to get,” Gelardi said. “They had good pitchers. I thought the key was the sixth inning. We had tied the game and had bases loaded and no outs. I figured we would come up with a base hit. We were banking on it.”
Catalina took a 1-0 lead in the sixth when Sahuarita’s Brad Crim tied the score with a homer in the bottom half of the inning.
Pearson doubled to drive in the tie-breaking run in the ninth and Nico Blank followed with a run-scoring single.
“We’ve come back from deficits before,” Pearson said. “I knew there was no problem with us coming back in this game. I have a lot of faith in my teammates.”
Sunnyside 6, Mountain View 5 (10 innings): At Mountain View, Sunnyside freshman Benny Garcia hit a go-ahead RBI double in the top of the 10th inning after fouling off five straight pitches with a two-strike count, giving the Blue Devils enough offense to clinch the 5A-II Southern Region championship.
“It was a heck of an at-bat,” Sunnyside coach Ernie Palomarez said. “Then he got that double right down the left field line, right past their third baseman’s glove.”
Mountain View (12-10, 4-2) scored all five runs in the first inning last week in a game that was suspended because of darkness and concluded Tuesday.
After Sunnyside (19-7, 5-1) went up 6-5 in the top of the 10th, it allowed the first two Mountain View hitters to reach base before retiring the next two.
After an intentional walk loaded the bases, Mountain View’s Robert Kallal sent a blast to deep left field where Jose Gomez, who pitched the first eight innings of the game, made a running catch about 10 feet from the fence, according to Palomarez.
Sunnyside plays 5A-I Southern Region champion Tucson High on Wednesday. The double-elimination 5A state tournament will begins on Saturday.
Douglas started its high school softball program during the 1979-80 season.
Tuesday, thanks in part to pitching ace Erica Tapia and four-year starting third baseman Katie Campbell, the Bulldogs beat visiting Amphi 14-1 in five innings, clinching the 4A Gila Region title, the school’s first region championship in softball.
Tapia improved to 22-1 in the pitchers circle this season and Campbell hit her sixth home run to go along with a .515 batting average for coach Abe Grijalva’s Douglas squad.
“It was pretty special,” said Grijalva, who has been the team’s head coach for 13 years.
For more on high school sports, check out the Grammer School sports blog.
By Ken Brazzle, Geoff Grammer