A couple of big flies, a bases-loaded walk and more determination from pitcher Bre Macha allowed Red Mountain to survive Friday to play for another softball title.
McKenzy Gutierrez and Jordan Beck launched solo homers to tie the game at 2 and Lindsey Steverson drew a bases-loaded walk for what proved to be the winning run in the fourth inning as Red Mountain rallied to edge Chaparral, 3-2, in the final elimination game of the Division I loser's bracket at Rose Mofford Softball Complex.
No. 2 Red Mountain (29-6-1) faces No. 4 Mountain Ridge (28-6-1) in the D-I championship game Monday (May 19) at 7:45 p.m. at ASU's Farrington Stadium. It will be Red Mountain's sixth consecutive appearance in the title game. If the Lady Lions prevail, it would be a record fifth crown in a row. Five schools — counting Red Mountain- have won four consecutive titles. No Arizona team has won five titles in a row in softball.
Red Mountain's win avenged its only loss of the tournament — to Chaparral — eight days ago by a score of 5-2. Last year Red Mountain beat Chaparral twice in the tournament, including the title game. Chaparral finished 2014 with a 26-9 record.
“This is what you play for,” a relieved Red Mountain coach Rich Hamilton said. “We have a chance to win it…… The internal motivation of these girls to win again is really something.”
Red Mountain trailed 2-0 after Chaparral used two infield hits, a single through a drawn-in infield and a fielder's choice in the top of the second. Macha wiggled out of the jam getting a strikeout and comebackerwith the bases loaded.
Chaparral ace Dallas McBride, who bested Macha and the Lady Lions on May 8, easily disposed of Red Mountain the first two innings, allowing a two-out single in the first. With a 2-0 lead in hand she retired Red Mountain in order in its half of the second. The third inning was what jump-started the Lady Lions and came courtesy of one hit.
With a 1-2 count leading off the last of the third, Gutierrez crushed a fastball to left center paring the lead to 2-1. It was only the second homer of the year for Gutierrez. Her other homer came on opening day — Feb. 26. McBride shrugged off the homer striking out the next three hitters.
McBride got the first out of the fourth with right fielder Alana Anderson tracking down a wicked liner in the corner by Ashley Hill. Then a nemesis from last year's playoffs — Jordan Beck — imitated Gutierrez belting a 1-2 offering over the center-field fence to tie the game. Hits by Macha and Savannah Kirkpatrick followed and then a pop out to second by Marian Ruf for the second out.
McBride seemed poised to get out of the inning, but a bout of wildness struck. She hit Gutierrez with the first pitch loading the bases. No. 9 hitter Lindsey Steverson was next and drew a five-pitch walk forcing in the decisive run.
Macha breezed through the fourth and fifth and one runner reached on an error in the sixth. The final three outs would have to come from the top of Chaparral's order on down.
Macha gave up a second infield hit to the speedy Anderson to open the inning. McBride was next and bounced out to Macha, but advanced Anderson to second. Macha caught Lauren LaTerra looking for strike three, leaving it up to clean-up hitter Alexa Thorell to produce a tie or better. Thorell lifted a fly to left that Red Mountain's Tabitha Shupe had bead on, but dropped in foul territory. The next pitch was hit sharply to short, but Steverson- to-Hill ended the game.
“What a great game,” Hamilton said. …..”Bre is something. The kid is clutch. It's the playoffs. She seems to have another gear.”