Div. I softball state tournament’s third-round matchups
Before we take a look at the Division I softball state tournament matchups on Thursday night – and there are a couple doozies – best of luck to Valley Christian, Scottsdale Christian and Tempe Prep as those schools begin the Division IV state tournament journey on Wednesday afternoon.
Unfortunately it’s single elimination format and the brackets don’t yield favorable matchups (especially in Friday’s possible second round), but nothing spells unpredictability like smaller-school state tournaments. Good luck.
Farewell to Division II, as the three East Valley representatives Saguaro, Queen Creek and Notre Dame were all victims of either Tucson schools (especially Q.C. which got leveled by Canyon del Oro) or, in Saguaro’s case, Casa Grande Vista Grande.
The Sabercats lost to Vista Grande. So after winning at No. 11 Paradise Valley on an incredible five-run seventh inning last Saturday, and then beating No. 6 Saguaro in Scottsdale on Tuesday, the Spartans might be a wee bit better than its No. 22 seeding.
So we turn our attention to Division I.
The game we thought would be most scintillating on Tuesday (Red Mountain vs. Mountain View) really wasn’t. The Lions continue to roll, a scarier proposition by the day for opponents.
Basha, too, moves on. Though a wonderful job by Jillian Leslie and Perry of pushing the No. 1-seed Bears to the very end in a 5-4 Basha victory. The Pumas were a confident bunch after last Saturday’s first-round win, even though Basha had won both regular season meetings. True to form, Perry played like it. Kudos to Kevin Chapin’s team for how its season ended with a 10-game winning streak and pushing one of the best teams (if not the best) and their neighborhood rivals to the brink.
Oh, and kudos to Basha for hanging on. Another big game in big moments from Kailey Regester, who’s made a habit of it the past couple years.
Elsewhere, Gilbert and Horizon moved on as expected, while Xavier snuffed out Chandler’s run with solid pitching and defense.
All of which leads us to Thursday’s third-round matchup. Perhaps more importantly, the double-elimination portion of the tournaments begins here. Ah, good ol’ “margin for error.”
Here’s a look at Thursday’s quarterfinals matchups.
All games are at 7:30 p.m. at Rose Mofford Softball Complex (9833 N. 25th Ave., Phoenix):
No. 1 Basha vs. No. 9 Centennial (Field #1): It’s not as Centennial hasn’t been one of the better programs the past several years in 5A Division II, but this game became significantly more interesting in the wake of Centennial shutting down No. 8 Desert Mountain on Tuesday night. Centennial drew five walks against DM pitcher Andy Wellins and the Coyotes allowed a scattered seven hits (six were singles) to the Wolves’ offense. Basha’s offense hasn’t had trouble scoring runs (at least three or four to help pitcher Kailey Regester), and Paige Mills (2.77 ERA) has been solid all season for Centennial. The Coyotes have a beast in the middle of their lineup in Abby Beasley (.567 avg., 14 doubles, eight triples, 11 HR, 58 RBI, 40 runs scored), and she has lots of help with Skylar McCarty (.519 w/ 44 RBI), Destinee Luna (.579 w/ 35 RBI) and Jazzmin Garcia (34 RBI). Basha counters with their own thunder in Regester (.459, 8 HR, 39 RBI) and Kylie Shull (.450, 9 HR, 45 RBI) and the Bears’ defense has been solid all year. A redux of the 5-4 outcome between Basha and Perry could be in the cards here. This should be a goodie.
No. 5 Mountain Ridge vs. No. 4 Gilbert (Field #2): This is pretty much the last “Mountain” school that Gilbert hadn’t yet played this season (Mountain Pointe, Desert Mountain, Red Mountain, Mountain View, etc….). Similar to those, Mountain Ridge has a few things of note on its resume this season. The Lions played well in the Dobson-Marcos de Niza tournament as well as a solid tournament in California over spring break. They split with Centennial, beat Mountain Pointe and Pinnacle and lost 6-0 to Basha in early April. There is no huge hitter in the lineup, rather, they depend on balance and “small ball,” which means they’re adept at stealing bases. They have two pitchers who’ve shared time most of the season, both with sub-2.00 ERAs (Amanda Cole and Kaylin Ayotte). The onus will be on Gilbert’s defense to keep Mtn. Ridge off the bases. Fortunately for Shaundra Gutierrez’s team, defense has been the Tigers’ strength all season in support of freshman pitcher Lynsey Duncan (1.96 ERA). The Tigers aren’t a home run-type team either, but they have been adept at hitting triples (odd but true) and have four players with 30 RBI or more.
No. 6 Horizon at No. 3 Xavier (Field #3): This has every chance of being the best of the four games. The frustrating part for both Bobby Pena’s Gators and Brian Casey’s Huskies, is that this will be the third meeting between these teams this season. Xavier won the first matchup, 4-3, in mid-March. The Huskies returned the favor, 3-0, to end the regular season on April 25. Xavier took care of business in the second round as Natalie Both’s pitching, a couple Chandler walks and errors was all the Gators ultimately needed. After some mid-season struggles, Horizon won its last seven power point games entering the tournament, then blew past Tucson High in five innings on Tuesday night. Margaret Stahm (.562, 8 HR, 40 RBI) homered in the win against XCP last week, and along with Nicole Newbury (.528, 41 runs, 25 RBI) lead the way for the Huskies. Tamara Statman and Kaila Jacobi also have some ‘pop’ in their bats. Statman has a 2.43 ERA but 184 strikeouts in 141 innings pitched. May the better-executing team win, because no surprises exist here.
No. 2 Red Mountain vs. No. 7 Cibola (Field #4): No offense to anyone involved, but this has the makings of a clunker. Perhaps it’s a quasi-”reward” for Red Mountain after it faced what was supposed to be a daunting elimination-game opponent in Mountain View (which, as it turns out, wasn’t after the Lions took a 4-0 lead in the first inning and Toros’ pitcher Val Kaff had to leave the game early because of her shoulder). The Lions are on top of their game these days, and Cibola hasn’t seen anything like the Lions this season (though not necessarily Cibola’s fault). Overconfidence or taking a Yuma school too lightly could be the only “trap” that Red Mountain faces here, but losing because they took an opponent too lightly hasn’t happened to the Lions in a long time. Among EV opponents, Cibola shut out Skyline at the beginning of March and beat up Dobson in mid-April. In between, however, was a 16-2 loss to Xavier, the closest caliber of competition to Red Mountain that Cibola has seen. And even that’s not terribly close these days.