With Joey Danner cruising and his defense pitching in, top-seeded Horizon is a win away from another trip to a 5A Division II state championship game.
"We’re good enough to get there," Danner said. "The only team that can beat us is ourselves, so if we play our game, we’ll get there."
Danner played his game as he scattered six hits to pace Horizon (17-4) past No. 5 Tucson Ironwood Ridge, 4-1, Saturday night in a winner’s bracket game at Surprise Stadium.
Horizon lost to No. 1 Mesa Desert Ridge 9-8 in the state title game last year. The Huskies have been in a championship game five years in a row, winning three times in different classifications.
This year, Horizon is in the driver’s seat for a spot in the May 15 championship game at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. The Huskies would have to lose twice to either Ironwood Ridge or Marcos de Niza on Thursday to be eliminated.
"I’m not thinking about losing one," said Horizon coach Eric Kibler. "That’s not what we even think about. We are where we want to be, but we’re two games away from where we expect to be."
The Nighthawks (21-9) must face the 13th-seeded Padres on Tuesday night at Phoenix Municipal at 7 p.m. after Marcos advanced with an 8-4 win Saturday over No. 4 Phoenix Pinnacle.
"Defense was awesome," said Danner, who walked one and struck out four. "We made every single play we could. (My) change-up and cutter were not as good as I wanted them to be but got the job done with the fast ball getting good location tonight."
Horizon used a three-run third inning to take control. No. 9 hitter Tom Besso doubled to open the inning, Dillon Everett singled and Jordon Dunetov walked.
Ironwood Ridge starter Brandon Matthews got John Rubino to ground out but Besso scored. Connor Clancy followed with a run-scoring single and then Rubino scored from second when he tried to steal third and Nighthawk catcher Daniel Medina threw wide of third.
Ironwood Ridge did get a pair of singles in the fourth, but Danner got designated hitter Steven Still to ground into a double play in between the hits to keep the Nighthawks at bay.
"I thought we played great defense," said Kibler. "They hit some balls hard and we fielded them. Their pitcher actually got composed and shut us down."
Ironwood Ridge broke through with a run in the fifth. Trey Stine walked, went to second on a groundout was balked to third and scored on Alex Worden’s shot to short that Everett got a glove on but did not make a throw. However, Danner caught Worden off first and tagged him out after a rundown.
Boulder Creek 6, Desert Mountain 1
Anthem Boulder Creek’s Bryce Eisenbart came within one out of no-hitting Scottsdale Desert Mountain in the winner’s bracket of the 5A-II state baseball tournament Saturday afternoon in Surprise.
Dylan Cozens broke up the gem with single up the middle with two out in the seventh after the third-seeded Wolves scored on an error and two groundouts.
Desert Mountain falls into the loser’s bracket and must face No. 15 Goodyear Millennium on Tuesday at Phoenix Municipal Stadium at 4 p.m. A win would give the Wolves another shot at Boulder Creek on Thursday, although they would have to sweep a doubleheader to reach the May 15 championship game.