Red Mountain's softball team is picking up where it left of last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. And the year before that.
That means the Lady Lions are winning a bunch of games and plan on being in the Division I title chase again. The four-time defending champs built a 5-0 through four innings Tuesday afternoon and turned back determined Hamilton, 6-3, in a Division I power-ranking game at Hamilton High.
Red Mountain, ranked No. 1 in the country in one national poll, is a heavy favorite to prevail as the state's best again this year for the fifth straight year. With eight veteran starters — some of whom have been playing a bunch the previous three — they've performed well in their first seven games of 2014. Five of their six wins have been routs and their lone loss was 1-0 in its own tournament last weekend to Verrado and its senior pitcher Morgan Brown.
On Tuesday, Red Mountain was outhit, 11-9, but posted the only crooked number of the day (three runs in the fourth inning) to pave the way to victory.
“We stayed in the game mentally offensively and defensively today,” Red Mountain coach Rich Hamilton said. “It was a little bit of a tight strike zone, but we had good at-bats and got runs when they were out there.”
Red Mountain (6-1, 1-0 power-ranking games) struck in the top of the first for a run with leadoff hitter Alyssa Fernandez's walk leading to a run via Ashley Hill's RBI single, the first of her two RBI in the game. Hamilton starter Cheyenne Noli was rather effective with six innings of work, but one of three errors in the contest — a leadoff miscue in the third — ledy to three unearned runs that made the day easier for Red Mountain. The key hits in the third, which boosted Red Mountain's lead to 4-0, were a two-run single by Savannah Kirkpatrick and pitcher Bre Macha's RBI single. Noli gave up all six runs in six innings of work, but four were unearned.
Macha notched he rthird win of the young season, but labored a bit due to some good at-bats and speed at the top of Hamilton's lineup. Hamilton coach Rocky Parra marched out a lineup that began with five left-handed hitters, including speedy freshman Bella Loomis and senior Sam Reynolds. Macha, the winning pitcher in each of the last three state title games, scattered 11 hits, walked two and struck out eight. She did not have a 1-2-3 inning, but was able to strand 11 runners.
“Bre pitched out of some trouble with big strikeouts,” Hamilton said. “She finished three innings with a strikeout. She's done that a lot over the last few years.”
Hamilton (2-1, 2-1 prg) had four players collect at least two hits each. Leadoff hitter and shortstop Bella Loomis (two,) Kimberly Slaughter (three), Christone Olivas (two) and Jamie Hatch (two). Olivas and Rachel Foote knocked in runs for Hamilton. Alex Wiley, Hill and Macha had two hits each for Red Mountain. Jordan Beck knocked in Red Mountain's final run with a sacrifice fly.