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2:01 AM Thu, Nov. 15th

Valley Union eliminates Bagdad in 1A semis, 1-0

Bagdad High School baseball’s 2017 AIA 1A State Tournament run

First Round: May 5 in Goodyear

(2) BAGDAD 15, (15) Mayer 0 [5]

Quarterfinals: May 6 in Goodyear

(2) BAGDAD 18, (7) San Pasqual 2 [3]

[AIA rules Bagdad wins by forfeit, 1-0, because game went only three innings]

Semifinals: May 12 in Goodyear

(3) Valley Union 1, (2) BAGDAD 0

[Bagdad eliminated]

2017 1A State Championship:

Today, May 13, in Surprise

(3) Valley Union vs. (1) Superior, 4:30 p.m. [at Surprise Stadium]

Valley Union High baseball’s history in AIA state tournament championship games; 5-time champion, 2-time runner-up

1A

2008 Valley Union 9, Gila Bend 1 (champion)

1974 Valley Union 8, Patagonia 0 (champion)

1973 Valley Union 7, Bowie 3 (champion)

1971 Valley Union 6, Fredonia 3 (champion)

1970 Valley Union 3, Fredonia 2 (champion)

1969 Ash Fork 1, Valley Union 0 (runner-up)

2A

1998 Phoenix Christian 7, Valley Union 1 (runner-up)

Superior High baseball’s history in AIA state tournament championship games; 3-time champion, 1-time runner-up

1A

2007 Superior 6, BAGDAD 3 (champion)

2A

1975 Superior 5, Mohave 4 (champion)

1960 Seligman 6, Superior 2 (runner-up)

3A

1972 Superior 2, Buckeye 1 (champion)

The defending state runner-up Bagdad baseball team will not return to the small schools’ state championship game after losing a 1-0 heartbreaker to third-seeded Valley Union in the AIA’s 1A semifinals Friday night.

Under the lights at Goodyear Baseball Complex, the second-seeded Sultans had no answers for Blue Devils ace pitcher Sean Hahn, who nearly went the distance in 6-2/3 innings. Hahn limited a potent Bagdad lineup to one hit and he notched 14 strikeouts.

Bagdad had runners in scoring position in the sixth and seventh innings, but couldn’t find a way to push anyone across. Bagdad coach Dalton Mills said the Sultans tried to adjust to Sean Hean by employing small-ball tactics to no avail.

“Sean is every much as advertised,” Mills said afterward. “He threw 85 to 87 [mph with his fastball] and we struggled with him.”

Derek Hahn earned the save for the Blue Devils, striking out Bagdad’s Owen Barton looking in the bottom of the seventh with the tying run at second to end it.

Bagdad starter Benjamin Loveall took the loss, despite piecing together a solid performance. He allowed one run, which was unearned in the first inning, on two hits and struck out eight.

Valley Union will face top-seeded Superior, unbeaten in power-point games, in today’s (May 13) 1A title contest at Surprise Stadium. First pitch is at 4:30 p.m.

Valley Union, from the unincorporated community of Elfrida in southeastern Arizona, has won five 1A state championships (2008, 1970-71, 1973-74) in its program’s rich history.

Ten years ago, Superior defeated Bagdad, 6-3, to claim the 1A championship. Superior has won three state titles, including one apiece in 1A, 2A and 3A.

Today could have marked the first time since 1991-92 that Bagdad had played in back-to-back state title games. The Sultans were the runners-up both years.

In fact, Bagdad baseball captured its first and only state championship in 1964, when the school played in the higher-enrollment 2A. The Sultans have finished as the state runner-up eight times in nine title-game appearances, including the years 1963, 1988, 1991, 1992, 1997, 2007, 2009 and 2016. Mills coached the 2009 and 2016 teams.

Last season, on May 14, 2016, the No. 1-ranked Sultans succumbed 2-0 to No. 2 Pima, now of 2A, in the Division V state championship contest.

With Friday’s semis loss, Bagdad’s seven-game winning streak since April 18 ended, along with its season. Nevertheless, the Sultans finished with an impressive 24-5 overall record.

Mills said he’s pleased with the eight seniors he had on his roster in 2017. The Sultans won the 1A state championship in football this past fall, and many of those seniors played key roles on the diamond.

“This group of seniors has a lot to be proud of,” Mills said. “Their 24 wins this season [in baseball] was two shy of the school record.

“These guys won a lot of baseball and football games. I’m proud of my kids.”