It was clear Thursday that Phoenix Sunnyslope was hungry for another title.
The No. 5 seed took control from the start, defeating No. 6 Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge 8-3 in the winners bracket final of the Division II state tournament at Camelback Ranch.
The defending champion advances to the title game at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Camelback Ranch.
Ironwood Ridge faces No. 3 Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Camelback Ranch in the final elimination game and the chance to play Sunnyslope.
“After last year, that’s all we wanted — to get back here,” Sunnyslope pitcher Calvin LeBrun said. “We can’t wait till Tuesday.”
Sunnyslope wasted no time Thursday getting things going on offense. Royal Love hit a two-run triple in the first inning to jump to an early 2-0 lead.
“He’s been coming up big for us,” Sunnyslope coach Jeff Shillington said. “He’s been our best hitter so far in the tournament.”
Love made it home on the next batter with a single by Chet Gleason to move the score to 3-0 heading into the second inning.
Ironwood Ridge would score two unearned runs in the second and third innings to keep itself within striking range.
Sunnyslope had a two-run lead heading into the fourth, but that’s when the No. 5 seed’s offense hit its stride. LeBrun hit a two-run double to deep center field that scored Cody Bergkamp and Hunter Martin to give Sunnyslope a four-run lead.
Ryan Oberg knocked in Kyle Weiss with a single and Casey Bowman came home on an error to stretch the lead to 8-2.
Ironwood Ridge would answer in the top of the fifth, scoring a run off a single by Kurt Bailey, but that’s as close as things would get.
LeBrun struck out four of the final eight batters to capture the victory.
The junior finished the night with nine strikeouts. He allowed 11 hits and three runs (one earned) in seven innings.
“I was just trying to make pitches and get us back in the dugout,” LeBrun said.