BEULAH - After the Section 5 tournament, Harvey coach Olson Zerr referred to Cando's Jake Hagler as "one of the best pitchers in the state." On Wednesday in the Class B state tournament at Goldmann Field, Hagler lived up to the hype.
The right-hander went the duration in the Bearcats' 7-2, first-round win against Hatton.
"He threw a gem," Cando coach Jesse Vote said. "He's our ace and he's our ace for a reason. We lean on him and as long as we're making plays behind him, we'll be all right."
Hagler, who allowed five hits and a walk to go with six strikeouts, was more critical of his performance.
"My fastball wasn't always hitting the spots, but I got the job done when I needed to," Hagler said.
Cando will play Hazen at 5 p.m. today in a winners' bracket game, while Hatton faces a loser-out matchup with Makoti at 2:30.
The Bearcats (15-11) opened the scoring with a run in the top of the first.
Leadoff hitter Daniel Grande walked and stole second. He tagged up on second baseman Jayden Komrosky's flyout to right and scored on cleanup Steven Hunt's single to left-center.
Cando and Hatton traded runs in the third inning before the Bearcats broke the game open with five runs in the fifth inning - reminiscent of their six-run third inning in the Section 5 championship game.
"I don't know how to explain it, but it's happened in back-to-back games," Vote said.
Grande led off with a single to center and Komrosky followed with a single to left. Hagler reached on a fielding error by Hatton second baseman Tanner Mundahl that allowed Grande to score.
Hunt drove in Komrosky and Hagler with a single for his second and third RBIs. Doubles by Brooks Larson and Aaron Bergdahl brought in two more runs to give Hagler a six-run lead.
Though pleased with its offensive output, Vote also applauded his team's defensive effort behind Hagler, particularly diving stops by Bergdahl and Grande.
"They made it look easy for us," Vote said. "One (play) in the outfield out in center field and one at first base, those are run-saving plays."
Said Hatton coach Christopher Strand: "I was impressed. They made every play."
Hatton scored one run in the seventh to cut the lead to five, but stranded two runners to end the game.
"Today we showed that we can hang with the best of them," Hagler said. "I thought we played really good defense, played a complete game."
Ryan Holmgren covers Legion baseball and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgrenMDN.