Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge junior Josh Darang pitched his way out of a couple of jams and held No. 19 Phoenix Arcadia (20-11) scoreless in the first round of the Division II baseball playoffs Saturday afternoon.
Darang improved his record to 6-1 on the year while the No. 14 Nighthawks picked up their 21st of the season (21-8) thanks to their 3-0 win over the Titans.
Tucson Catalina Foothills has been a consistent presence in postseason play. Except for the 2012 season where the Falcons dropped eight of their last nine games to fall out of contention, one would be hard pressed to point to a "bad" season over the last decade or so.
Payson is the top-ranked team in Division III and Tanque Verde is ranked second. The Hawks know a rematch in the state playoffs is possible if they can remain unbeaten and they took another step with a 16-8 victory over D-IV power Tucson Desert Christian on Thursday.
Ranked third in Division II softball, Tucson Sahuaro will gladly accept the Section II title they earned by beating Sierra Vista Buena 9-0 on Wednesday but the Cougars have much loftier goals. Once the most powerful softball program in the state, Sahuaro has not won a state championship since 2001.
Tucson Catalina Foothills wrapped up another perfect regular season Thursday night with a 7-1 win at rival Division II power Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge. At 14-0 overall and 8-0 in Section V, the Falcons have only given up 10 points all year but only three since March 9.
Based only on games that matter, Tucson Salpointe is the top-ranked D-II team with an 11-1 record in power-rankings games and a 7-0 record in Section VI battles. The Lancers can clinch a section title if the beat Tucson Catalina Foothills (3-8, 2-2) next Monday or if Ironwood Ridge (11-3, 4-2) and Canyon del Oro (9-3, 5-2) both lose before that.
The state playoffs for individual and doubles are scheduled to start next Friday, Apr. 24 while the team portion is set for the following Wednesday, Apr. 29.
16 teams will qualify from each of the three divisions with the top two teams from each section earning an automatic berth.
Cole Kowalski arrived on the Tucson Catalina campus one year after the Trojans won their second straight Division II boy's volleyball state championship. It was the spring of 2012 and the freshman setter and found himself on a team without all-state players Ryan Graham, Josh DeYoung, Lorenzo Gonzales, Ethan Mangosing and his brother Cooper Kowalski.
Chris Moon was the consensus 2007 Southern Arizona baseball player of the year. The Tucson High pitcher/outfielder got the attention of the Atlanta Braves and was drafted in the 35th round.
Moon chose to play for the University of Arizona instead and signed up with Andy Lopez that fall. It was that class of commitments that eventually won the NCAA championship for the Wildcats in 2012 but Moon would not be one of them.
The Rangers visited Section III favorite Tucson (4-1, 0-1) on Tuesday night in an important divisional match with early ranking implications with Tucson coming out on top 3-1 ( 19-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-20).