Two young teams at old schools trying to re-establish their softball programs engaged in a tight pitchers duel in the 4A play-in round Wednesday in Glendale.
Thanks to the pitching of sophomore Kaitlynn Bales and the defense behind her, in particular sophomore right fielder Isabela Ramirez, visiting #18 Buckeye made its 2-0 lead against #15 Deer Valley stand up.
Buckeye is now the #15 seed in the main 4A bracket and plays at #2 Greenway at 11 a.m. Saturday.
"I told them nobody's better in this situation," Buckeye coach Pete Alva said. "Let's back our pitcher up. Our pitcher tends to want to strike everybody out. They rallied and we got out of here."
Deer Valley, in its first home playoff game since 2011 - the last year the Skyhawks won a state title - was left to lament its missed opportunities.
In the fifth inning the home team loaded the bases with one out and, as coach Taylor Hagele said, its fastest runner on third. A pop up to third and strikeout later the Skyhawks remained scoreless.
"Their defense is what made the game. Their pitcher did a great job at mixing up her pitches early and it took us a while to make those adjustments at the plate. When we did, Buckeye’s outfield made amazing plays that we would’ve scored on if they hadn’t made them," Haegle said. "My girls were going back to some old habits of going for the high pitches or looking at too many strikes and we didn’t make the adjustments early."
Bales is in her first varsity season, as is Skyhawks freshman pitcher Adison Ordway.
Ramirez kept the game scoreless in the bottom of the third, making a lunging grab of junior Alex Hess' shot to right with a runner on second and two outs.
The Hawks gained the lead in two straight at bats. Freshman Ave Risati smacked an RBI double with one out.
"It's unbelievable, the maturity she has as a freshman.," Alva said.
Then senior Halle Hogan followed with an RBI groundout. She is one of only two seniors for Buckeye.
Deer Valley is even a tad younger, with no seniors on the squad. The young group won its first region title since 2011.
"This team has put DVHS softball back on the map. They won a region title and made it to postseason— both which hasn’t happened since Haeger was here. I think the biggest thing the girls did was prove to themselves, and the community, that DV softball is building and ready to be competitive again. I am very proud of each and every one of my 13 girls," Haegle said.
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