Pitcher Bre Macha and catcher Jordan Beck played their final game of catch Monday night after doing so for 11 years. They and their Red Mountain teammates had a good time. A very good time.
Beck and Macha crushed back-to-back doubles to highlight an early rally and Red Mountain added on from there to nab a state-record, fifth consecutive softball title at ASU's Farrington Stadium. The final tally was an 8-1 triumph over Mountain Ridge with Macha scattering seven hits in earning her fourth win as a starting pitcher in as many tries in championship games. Macha decisioned Basha twice, Chaparral and Mountain Ridge.
Red Mountain players gathered near home plate moments after recording the final out and chanted in unison — Five-peat, Five-peat, Five-peat. They also found a moment to douse coach Rich Hamilton with several water bottles full of liquid, a cool treat for their mentor on a hot night. Red Mountain's five titles cover 2010 through 2014. Monday was its sixth consecutive appearance in a championship game. Four other schools had had four titles in a row previously — Chaparral, Seton twice, Joseph City and Hayden.
Mountain Ridge was trying for a some history of its own — playing in their first title title game and hoping to win it. It would have been made sweeter ending Red Mountain's reign. But it was not in the cards for Michele Markham's young team. Not this year. Mountain Ridge started one senior, catcher Corrin Green.
“I had thought about what I would say if we didn't win,” Hamilton said. “I didn't know what I was going to say, but now I won't have to worry about that until next year since the streak is still going.”
Hamilton credited this team's “internal motivation” not to be the team that ended the streak to driving it through another title-season and at timesa harrowing loser's bracket-run the past 10 days.
With strength and determination of Macha pitching the past four years, it's been hard to imagine Red Mountain losing with each passing year. Macha threw her best championship game of the four Monday. She had excellent command, allowed four hits and no runs through six innings. By that time Red Mountain had amassed an 8-0 lead. The ASU-bound Macha gave up three consecutive, two-out singles in the seventh to lose the shutout. All seven hits she surrendered were singles.
Beck and Macha ignited the first rally of the game. Mountain Ridge left-hander Giselle Juarez retired Red Mountain in order in the first, but Beck and Macha changed things with their at-bats in the second. Beck doubled off the wall in center to start the offense. Macha hit the very next pitch off the left-field wall for a double and a 1-0 lead. McKenzy Gutierrez made it 2-0 with a triple to the gap in left center. All three hits made it known Red Mountain meant business
“To start out the game like that was huge,” Macha said. “It was nice to get the lead early.”
Beck seconded that.
“That was a game changer,” Beck said. “We've had trouble scoring in the first couple innings. Getting those runs, the whole demeanor was different after that.”
Macha got more support in the fourth inning as Red Mountain executed to perfection and tacked on three more runs for 5-0 advantage. Macha was hit by a pitch to start the fourth. A sacrifice by Savannah Kirkpatrick set up Marian Ruf to deliver a run-scoring single to center. Gutierrez then singled and Lindsey Steverson dropped the second sac bunt of the inning. With two outs and runners at second and third, leadoff hitter Alyssa Fernandez doubled both home with a shot to the alley in right-center.
Macha faced her first jam in the fourth, giving up a pair of one-out singles. She got a ground out and one of her five strikeouts to end the inning.
Any chance of Mountain Ridge coming back was essentially ended in the sixth when more Red Mountain hitters made their presence felt. Kirkpatrick doubled to open the sixtt and Ruf singled. A walk to Fernande loaded the bases. Alex Wiley was hit by a pitch with an 0-2 count to force in the sixth run and Ashley Hill followed with her first hit — a two-run single.
“It was great to see everyone contribute in some way,” Ruf, who along with Macha an Beck have four titles to their credit, said. “I had my favorite (title) before, but this one is way more special. I won't play with them again and may never play against any of them again in college. We went out with nothing to lose.”