Willow Canyon softball slugs way to early season win

Willow Canyon's Mo Foster hits an RBI single against Deer Valley on Wednesday, March 7, 2018 at Willow Canyon High School in Surprise. [Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps]

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

Coaches enter the season with a vision for what their team can be if it continues to improve and plays up to its potential.

However, teams rarely meet that best case scenario early in the season. So, forgive the leaders of the Willow Canyon and Deer Valley softball teams if they were not turning cartwheels after Wednesday’s game in Surprise.

The Wildcats were prone to mistakes but never in danger of losing this second week game, thanks to their bats. Willow Canyon (6-1-1) continues to pound out hits, as MacKenzie Federico drove in five runs 11-4.

“I don’t normally jump on the first pitch but I’ve noticed from other girls that came before me that usually the first pitch is a good pitch to hit,” Federico said. “Coach T has had an impact on us. We hadn’t had the best of coaching and he really pushes us to do our best.”

Willow Canyon coach Donnie Tizzano is in his second stint coaching the program. He finished leading the Wildcats in 2014, heading up a Minnesota junior college program for two years and Goodyear Millennium last year.

He is not sure whether this group can maximize its potential by playing smarter in unique game situations. But it’s already clear that these girls can rake.

Their level of competition will jump as the season goes on, but in the first two weeks, the Wildcats are averaging 13 runs a game.

“I love the way we swing the bat up and down the lineup,” Tizzano said. “The way we ran the bases today wasn’t very good. They just want to hit, hit, hit, but we also need to make sure we catch the ball.”

Federico started the roll Wednesday, tripling in sophomore Mo Foster and Mashayla Beltran. Senior Brooke Windahl singled to bring Federico home.

The three-run first inning diminished senior Rene Burkland’s opening run for the Skyhawks.

Foster hit a bloop RBI in the second and Federico followed with a sacrifice fly in the second. Senior Emily Cowen smacked an RBI double in the third.

Federico built the lead to 8-2 by singling to right and sending Foster and Beltran home. She already has 19 RBI this season and entered the game with a batting average above .700.

“She’s putting up video game numbers. It’s ridiculous,” Tizzano said.

Deer Valley (3-8) is searching for a pitcher to shoulder the load, alternating between sophomore Lauren DePalma and junior Jazzmyn Bradford.

“We need to be consistent and quit making errors. We’re making a lot of youthful mistakes,”  Deer Valley coach Jason Shepherd said. “Pitchers have got to do a better job of hitting their spots and we need to make plays behind them.”

DePalma started in the circle Wednesday and made more of an impact with her bat. She picked up an RBI in the top of the fifth and led off the seventh with a single and eventually scored on a wild pitch.

Senior Reese Morales led off the bottom of the fifth with a blast over the left field wall and a 9-3 lead. Freshman Hannah Bowers then doubled down the third base line and scored on a fielder’s choice.

Federico scored the final run after hitting a double in the sixth, scooting home on a Skyhawk error.

While the score looked good, the potential of this team has Tizzano wanting more.

“I just told them, they’re by far the best team we’re had here. We’ve had more talent in some area, but from top to bottom this is the best team,” Tizzano said. “They don’t understand the expectations yet, and rightfully so. They haven’t had them. Those other kids (from his first stint as coach) it meant something to them. That’s what they’re trying to get back to.”

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