Sahuaro (Tucson, Ariz.) High junior southpaw Alex Verdugo recorded 18 strikeouts in six innings, and his coach pulled him out of a tie game in the Division II state quarterfinals.
“Believe me," Sahuaro coach Mark Chandler told azcentral sports. "I’m thinking to myself, ‘If we end up coming on the wrong end of this, that’s going to be the headline.’”
It took a single up the middle from 9-hole hitter Owen Sanchez to snap a 3-3 seventh-inning tie against Nogales (Ariz.) High and send the Cougars (27-5) into the state semifinals. In the end, Verdugo struck out 18 and didn't get the win on the mound.
Verdugo induced a couple groundouts -- in the fourth and sixth innings -- but still retired the side on a pair of dropped third strikes, according to the azcentral sports game story. His pitch count climbed over 100 in the sixth inning, so Chandler removed his star pitcher -- just as he had did during a Verdugo no-hit bid two years ago.
"All that’s great and fine," Chandler told the online publication, "but he’s got a future and we want to facilitate that as much as possible."
That future appears bright. Perfect Game USA ranks Verdugo as the No. 58 prospect in the Class of 2014. He had 15 strikeouts earlier in the year, according to azcentral sports, but he had no idea of his total when his coach went to the bullpen on Tuesday.
“I wasn’t counting them all in my head," he said, "but I kind of figured that I had a lot.”
If Verdugo hadn't pitched two innings of relief on Saturday, perhaps Chandler would have let the junior left-hander try to match the Division II single-game record of 21 strikeouts, set by Cholla (Tucson, Ariz.) High's Jesus Garcia in 1971.
Still, it would have been hard for him to match a state record that probably isn't falling anytime soon: 28, recorded in 1925 by Glendale (Ariz.) High's Elton Yancy.