Softball games to see this week
Less than two weeks to go until tournament time (April 27) and plenty of jostling, confusion, unknowns and hypotheticals are left for those trying to earn one of the 24 spots into each of the four divisions’ state tournaments (top 4 teams in each section earn automatic bids, top 8 in each Division earn first-round bye).
All games are 3:45 p.m. unless otherwise noted. All records/rankings are power rankings games as of Monday April 15):
Tuesday April 16
Basha at Xavier: The Gators (No. 9 at 11-2) are on a five-game winning streak heading into Monday’s action against St. Mary’s, and this would be a huge help in trying to secure a first-round bye and second-round home game for Xavier. But it’s not everything, because after a relatively easy schedule recently, this is the start of a slightly more challenging slate for Bobby Pena’s team. How its freshman pitchers handle Basha’s bats will be key. The Bears (No. 3 at 11-1) are on a four-game winning streak since a loss to Mountain Ridge, including 14 runs per game the past three games (that’s not likely to continue here).
Dobson at Chandler: Chandler is likely playing for pride at this point at No. 36 and with a rough schedule ahead. Dobson (No. 25 at 6-5) is not, though it has an even tougher schedule remaining after this game (Gilbert, Corona del Sol, Red Mountain twice). Even losses there will keep Dobson in the picture because of the opponents’ high rankings, but after playing Cibola on Monday, the Mustangs must win this game to stay in the hunt, and the Mustangs have four games in five days this week. Dobson won 5-3 in the first meeting on April 3, but the sticking point here and for several other schools will be Section 1 receiving its four automatic bids, which means other schools might have to finish 22nd or higher to avoid being bumped out of the tournament by a Section 1 team, depending on how the rankings shake out.
Highland at Desert Vista: Similar to Dobson above, Highland is in a similar boat (No. 27 at 5-7) with an even more difficult schedule upcoming (Desert Ridge twice, Basha and Red Mountain). The Hawks have been ravaged by injuries all season, and four games in five days this week with this much on the line won’t ease the stress. These schools haven’t played each other, but with Desert Vista at No. 19 (10-3) and on a seven-game winning streak. D.V. needs this game to stay out front, because anything in the low-to-mid 20s in the rankings is cause for nervousness.
Hamilton at Horizon (6 p.m.): The battle of Huskies. Hamilton (No. 21 at 7-7) forged a key win against Chandler after surrendering a lead, and Rocky Parra’s group will get a big test here, especially in pitching and defense, where the young Huskies are still learning the ropes. Hamilton has Horizon, Xavier, Perry and Casa Grande (which beat Hamilton nearly two weeks ago) left during its playoff pursuit. Horizon (No. 10 at 9-2) is in fine shape playoff-wise, but in search of a top 8 seed, and can’t afford many more losses (especially against teams behind them in the rankings) with Xavier and Desert Mountain still left on the schedule.
Wednesday April 17
Mountain Pointe at Corona del Sol: Two schools trying to hang on. Corona (No. 17 at 11-3) has played well recently, with seven wins in eight games since the Desert Mountain tournament and getting good pitching from McKenna Isenberg (a respectable 2-0 loss to Gilbert the only blemish)., and the Aztecs won 7-0 earlier this month against Mountain Pointe. The Pride (No. 20 at 9-5) have a good chance to win out its final three games after this one, but the opponents (Mesa, McClintock and Westwood) won’t help the rankings much even in victory, so a loss here could really put the Pride in a squeeze in possibly needing to avoid the 23rd and 24th spots in Div. I.
Valley Christian vs. Tempe Prep (at Papago softball complex): Valley Christian (No. 8 at 10-3) is vying for a first-round bye in Div. IV and a win here would help that cause since another big showdown vs. NW Christian looms on Friday for the Trojans. Tempe Prep (No. 14 at 9-4) is in OK position for the playoffs, but four games in four days this week will be downright brutal for the Knights given the Trojans, Phoenix Christian and AZ Lutheran Academy are three of those four, arguably three of the top 8 teams in Div. IV. V.C. won the first meeting, 6-3.
Thursday April 18
Horizon at Mountain View: The Toros (No. 7 at 10-2) slipped a spot after losing to Red Mountain, and a not-so-easy schedule remains for Joe Goodman’s group (Horizon, Desert Mountain, Sunnyside) to try and get one of those top 8 spots. The Toros’ defense and hitting need to rebound quickly after the Red Mountain loss, but the unanswerable question (at this point) isn’t as much whether Mountain View can run the table in its final five games (those three plus Skyline and Westwood), because the Toros are capable of doing so. It’s figuring out a margin of error between wins/losses and who they occur against among that group.
Hamilton at Perry (4 p.m.): We know Hamilton is on the bubble at No. 21 so all wins are needed moving forward, let alone against a Perry team slightly ahead in the rankings (No. 16 at 10-4). After a fast start, Perry is 3-3 in April (losses to Basha, Highland and Desert Ridge). With the Huskies and Chandler as the more formidable opponents left, Perry can finish out the regular season on a winning streak, but earning a top 8 seed is looking unlikely. To further muddle things, the Pumas won a wild 11-9 matchup between these teams in early March.
Desert Ridge at Highland (7 p.m.): Now at No. 12 (7-6) in the power rankings with the biggest strength of schedule in Div. I, Desert Ridge is looking pretty good in the playoff picture, a possible first postseason spot in three years. It would probably take at least a 4-1 record to get into the top 8 picture for the Jaguars (including a win over Basha on Friday), while Highland is playing for its playoff life. These two teams will meet again on April 23.
Friday April 19
Xavier at Chaparral: The Gators’ pursuit of a top 8 seed will still be in focus regardless of the outcome against Basha earlier in the week because the Bears are a top 5-ranked team. But a loss to Basha and here, would put that in serious jeopardy heading into next week’s big showdown with Horizon. This will be the third game in four days for Chaparral (No. 14 at 9-3) though the Firebirds are favored in the other two (Camelback and North Canyon). A win here vaults Chaparral into discussion for a top 8 seed, though it might fall a little short. Still, winning out is a real possibility here, and the Firebirds would like to recoup a 3-2 loss to Xavier earlier this season, despite 10 hits by the Firebirds.
Basha at Desert Ridge: It’ll be tough to top the first meeting between these two, a 2-1 Basha win on April 5 when Brooke Breland hit a two-run home run in the seventh inning. Lynea Klemmedson gave the Bears an excellent outing in keeping D-Ridge from stringing together its eight hits, and Jaguars’ freshman Bailey Klitzke was outstanding in the circle despite the bitter defeat. It’ll be the Bears’ third game in four days this week as they try and secure a top 8 spot, and the remaining schedule is just challenging enough that a loss or two could make things rocky.
Gilbert at Pinnacle: Pinnacle may not have postseason in its future at No. 32, but the Pioneers can hit (pitching has been the problem). A shootout here is possible, though Gilbert (five-game winning streak) has been steady all season and is in pretty good position (even with another matchup vs. Basha next week) at getting a top-8 spot, but a slip here could prove pretty costly, because even though most of its opponents consider Pinnacle much better than its seeding, the 32nd ranking won’t do the Tigers any favors in defeat.
Maricopa at Seton Catholic: Cliche alert: Every game left for the Sentinels (No. 29 at 12-2 in Div. II) is a must-win because of the schedule. These two teams met last week and the Sentinels kept themselves alive in the hunt with a 4-3 win over Maricopa. They’ll have to do it again, because even if Seton beats Williams Field and Notre Dame this week, it won’t help the cause much. That is to say a win here sets up basically an elimination game next week against Queen Creek.
Tags: Basha, Chaparral, Corona del Sol, Desert Mountain, Desert Ridge, desert vista, Dobson, Gilbert, Hamilton, Highland, Horizon, Mountain Pointe, Mountain View, Perry, Pinnacle, Red Mountain, Seton Catholic, Valley Christian, Xavier