Saguaro continued its hot hitting and got a quality performance from Daniel Akmon to advance in the Division II state baseball tournament.
The Sabercats needed only five innings on Thursday to beat No. 3 Tucson Sabino 15-4 at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Saguaro advances to face another Southern Arizona school, surprising No. 10 seed Salpointe Catholic, which edged No. 2 Notre Dame 5-4 in the first game at Diablo on Thursday.
Saguaro (25-7) and Salpointe meet at 4 p.m. Saturday at Camelback Ranch in the West Valley. Two more wins would get a team in the state title game on May 15.
“It’s a huge win,” Akmon said. “We want to stay in the winner’s bracket as long as possible.”
Saguaro scored 12 runs on 12 hits in its first tournament outing, a run-rule, second-round win over No. 11 Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain on Tuesday. In the third round, Saguaro pounded out eight runs on nine hits over two and two-thirds innings against Sabino starter Randy Dalrymple (5-1), who came in to the game with an ERA of 2.22.
“They probably have the best pitching staff in Arizona,” Saguaro coach Ryan Dyer said. “So we were geared up for this game. We have been working hard all week for what they were going to throw at us today.”
For Akmon it looked relatively easy, outside of the three-run second. In five innings, Akmon (7-2) had Sabino hitting the ball into the ground (nine groundball outs) or missing (four strikeouts). He retired the last eight batters with the help of a double play in the fourth.
“Well, my off-speed wasn’t really working so I was trying to get ahead with the fastball,” Akmon said. “That seemed to work. I was hitting my spots.”
He scattered seven hits but really only had the one bad inning, when Sabino scored three times on four hits, all singles.
“You ask a pitcher to come into a game like this and throw strikes and get big outs and he did that all night long,” Dyer said of Akmon.
Meanwhile, the Saguaro hitters got out of the blocks quickly, scoring four times in the first and then four more in the third, chasing Dalrymple.
“We were ready to hit the ball today,” Dyer said. “We wanted to be aggressive. We came out swinging and it was our day.
After Sabino got back to within 4-3, Saguaro got four more in the third. A single by pinch-hitter Nick Lagusis was followed by swinging bunt single by Jon Nimtz. Then, Turner Lace’s bunt was misplayed by Dalrymple, loading the bases. He struck out Brandon Allen but Dakota Reistad drove in a run with a fly ball. Dalrymple then hit Austin Anderson and allowed a hit to Zach Gibbons that scored two more. Sabino reliever Tommy Harding got a groundout to end the inning but then allowed five runs in the fourth, walking four and having four errors behind him.