Originally published Saturday, May 5, 2018 at 09:00p.m.

SURPRISE — Chino Valley’s thrilling 2018 season ended in the 3A state quarterfinals Saturday at Surprise Sports Complex in a 4-3 loss after Casteel hit a walk-off home run in the seventh inning to advance to the semis next weekend.

Cougars junior southpaw Abdiel Sanchez pitched admirably in this one, going the distance in a tight game. Chino Valley trailed 1-0 in the first inning before knotting it at 1-1 in the third. Casteel plated two runs in the fourth for a 3-1 lead, and it stayed that way until the Cougars tied it at 3-3 in the top of the seventh.

“His pitch count was not great after the first inning, but then he just settled down and he found a groove,” Chino Valley coach Mark Middleton said of Sanchez. “Against a team [in Casteel] that’s going to be in the 5A next year, and then the 6A the following year, it tells you that it’s nothing to hang our heads down about. I’m so proud of these guys.”

This spring, the Cougars (15-4 overall record in power-point games) recorded five come-from-behind wins and played well as a team, Middleton added. They were riding an eight-game winning streak going into Saturday’s contest.

“We were a little flat [Saturday] coming out, but we didn’t give up; we kept going,” Middleton said. “The level of pride that I’m their coach… they’re such a bunch of great guys, and I just loved being with them all year.”