Originally Published: May 15, 2009 10:18 p.m.
That elusive 1A state championship is tantalizingly close for the Bagdad Sultans.
Bagdad advanced to its fifth 1A title game appearance since 1991 by putting the clamps on heavy-hitting Gila Bend in a 2-0 semifinal victory Friday night at Tempe Diablo Complex.
Starting pitcher Gaige McKeon levied the damage from the mound, quieting a Tigers' lineup that was averaging 9.5 runs per game going in.
As a result, Bagdad will seek its first 1A state title in school history Saturday against Tanque Verde, which upended Valley Lutheran 2-1 in Friday night's other semifinal. First pitch is 3 p.m. at Surprise Stadium.
The Sultans snapped Gila Bend's 16-game winning streak to reach their first final since a 6-3 loss to Superior in the 2007 championship.
Bagdad, winners of nine straight, did capture a state championship at the 2A level back in 1964. The Sultans also appeared in the 2A title game in 1988 and 1963 but fell short each time.
Pitcher Zach Loveall gets the starting nod on the mound for Saturday's championship.
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