The defenses certainly weren't at their best Wednesday afternoon as northwest Valley power Mountain Ridge matched up against one of southern Arizona's top clubs in Ironwood Ridge.
In the end it was the consistent offense of Mountain Ridge and five soliid innings of work by Giselle Juarez that paced Mountain Ridge to a 9-5 triumph over Ironwood Ridge on Day 2 of the Desert Mountain Softball Invitational at Horizon Park.
Mountain Ridge moved to 12-1 on the season and 2-0 after its first two games of four in non-bracket play. Ironwood Ridge dropped to 7-3 on the season. The Lady Nighthawks played their second tournament game late Wednesday night against Mesa Mountain View.
“One through nine are hitting for us,” Mountain Ridge coach Michele Markham said. “I think our No. 9 hitter was the only one without a hit today and she hit line drive at the pitcher that could have been a hit. We had a good day hitting.”
Ironwood Ridge committed six errors and Mountain Ridge had three. Ironwood Ridge made five of its errors in the first three inning. Three of those miscues in the third helped Mountain Ridge to a five-run inining that brought it back from a brief 2-1 deficit. Mountain Ridge mixed in four hits in the third with shortstop Alyssa DiCarlo's solo homer to right-center opening up the big frame. Juarez, Riley Seegan and Taylor Kaye also knocked in runs in the third for Mountain Ridge. Seven Mountain Ridge players had an RBI. Seegan was the only one with two.
Ironwood Ridge kept the game close for five innings despite doubling Mountain Ridge in errors and getting outhit in the game, 14-3. Throw in seven walks and Ironwood Ridge was fortunate to be anywhere close to winning. Mountain Ridge's trio of errors contributed to each of Ironwood Ridge's scoring rallies. All five of Ironwood Ridge's runs were unearned.
“We didn't play well defensively early, but once we cleaned it up things went much better,” Markham said. “What I liked was after someone made an error they came back and got a solid hit.”
One of those atoning was DiCarlo with her third inning homer after a ball skipped through her legs for two runs in the third. Leadoff hitter Bailey Gaffin, who had four hits and scored twice, doubled off the bottom of the right-field fence to highlight a three-run, game-clinching rally in the sixth. Gaffin's error in the fifth allowed Ironwood Ridge to creep within 6-5.
On the ptiching front, Juarez relieved starter Kaylin Ayotte in the third. The move was pre-planned to allow Ayotte to work on some things, according to Markham. Ayotte allowed two unearned runs and one hit in her two innings. Juarez tossed the final five allowing two hits and striking out seven with some good, late movement on her pitches. Juarez allowed three runs — all unearned. Freshman Lexi Orth pitched a complete game for Ironwood Ridge. The rugged defense early plus the speed at the top of Mountain Ridge's lineup made for a tought day for Orth