Entering the game with the second-most strikeouts in the state, an ERA barely above 1.00 and a record of 8-0, Sahuaro's Alex Verdugo pitched as advertised Tuesday.
He punched out 10 batters, gave up just two hits and helped the fourth-seeded Cougars to a 10-0 win in five innings over No. 13 Catalina Foothills in the second round of the Division II state tournament.
"Obviously, Verdugo lived up to the billing," Sahuaro coach Mark Chandler said. "With all the recent attention, everybody's talking about him, everybody wants to see him. There was a lot of pressure on him today, but he answered the call."
Sahuaro (25-4) will play fifth-seeded Phoenix Sunnyslope on Thursday, in the third round to open double-elimination.
The Falcons threatened in the first inning with a pair of runners in scoring position, but to no avail. Foothills managed to move a runner to third three times. Each time, Verdugo struck out the next batter to end the inning.
"I just knew it was a big game, and I had to dial it in and start hitting my spots," said Verdugo, who has 112 strikeouts on the season. "I didn't want them to score and get any momentum back."
The junior left-handed ace retired nine consecutive batters at one point, including five consecutive strikeouts.
When he wasn't busy keeping the other team from scoring, Verdugo was helping his own cause. He finished 2 for 3 with three RBIs.
• No. 6 Ironwood Ridge 15, No. 11 Phoenix Arcadia 5: At Ironwood Ridge, the Nighthawks (24-5) gave up one run in the first inning but responded with three in the second before jumping out to a 13-1 lead by the end of the fourth.
I-Ridge registered 19 hits, including five doubles and will play No. 3 Scottsdale Notre Dame in Thursday's third round.
• No. 10 Nogales 15, No.7 Flagstaff Coconino 4: At Coconino, the Apaches scored nine runs in the first two innings. Senior captain Ramses Camacho led the way, hitting two three-run home runs and striking out four batters through five innings for the victory.
Nogales (18-8) will play second-seeded Phoenix Greenway on Thursday.
• No. 1 Chandler Seton Catholic 19, No. 16 Canyon del Oro 10: At Seton Catholic, the Sentinels scored at least one run in each inning. CDO's pitchers hit four batters and combined for seven walks.
The Dorados homered three times in the fifth inning, highlighted by a pinch-hit grand slam by freshman Tristan Peterson, to cut Seton Catholic's lead to 13-9.
It was Peterson's first varsity at-bat. Sophomore Nick Ames finished 2 for 4 with two home runs and 3 RBIs.
• No. 2 Tucson 2, No. 15 Sunnyside 0: At Cherry Field, senior pitcher Alex Robles tossed a complete-game shutout with six strikeouts and finished 2 for 2 with a run scored at the plate.
Fellow senior Jesse Robles went 2 for 2 with a double, and senior Felipe Peralta finished 1 for 3 with an RBI single. The Badgers (27-4) will play No. 10 Scottsdale Chaparral on Thursday.
Sunnyside finished its season 18-11-1.
• No. 1 Scottsdale Desert Mountain 12, No. 17 Cienega 6: At Desert Mountain, the Bobcats took a one-run lead in the top of the third but gave up six in the bottom of the inning to fall behind. Cienega (15-15) scored four runs in the fifth to narrow the gap but couldn't reclaim the lead.
• No. 13 Empire 9, No. 20 Winslow 2: At Surprise Sports Complex, the Ravens (21-6) collected 15 hits behind the arm of senior pitcher Colton Stokes.
Stokes threw six innings with four strikeouts, and sophomore Donny Sands finished 3 for 4 with two doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored.
Junior Brenden Thaggard stole two bases for Empire, which will face No. 4 Scottsdale Christian at 6:30 p.m. Friday in Surprise.
• No. 9 Payson 4, No. 24 Rio Rico 23: At Surprise Sports Complex, Rio Rico's first trip to the state tournament ended with a loss. The Hawks finish the season with a 15-11 record.
• No. 13 Tempe Prep 4, No. 20 Tanque Verde 1: At Goodyear Baseball Complex South, Tanque Verde (12-14) loaded the bases in the sixth inning but could only bring one run across.