Morenci hosts Miami for its final home game on Monday

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Juliauna Forgach-Aguilar readies a hand slap for head coach Joseph Garcia as she rounds third base. The Morenci senior lead-off batter dispatched a 3-2 count pitch over the 250-foot leftfield fence, scoring a run to take an early advantage over Benson on April 23. The 3-0 first-inning lead would be Morenci’s last. Benson prevailed 10-9. The teams both conclude the regular season on the road, No. 1 Benson at No. 15 Pima and No. 7 Morenci at No. 16 Bisbee on April 26. Morenci welcomes No. 19 Miami on Monday, April 25.

Wildcats head to Bisbee for the regular-season finale Tuesday

By Raymundo Frasquillo

MORENCI – The Joseph Garcia-coached Morenci Wildcats host Miami for the final home contest on Monday, April 25. The regular-season finale is in Bisbee on Tuesday, April 26.

During Garcia’s six seasons, Morenci is 6-2 versus Miami and 8-0 versus Bisbee with seven of those games being abbreviated in five innings. The Wildcats have outscored the Vandals by an average of 10-3 (30-8) per game and the Pumas by a 19-3 (148-20) score per game.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Senior courtesy runner Celine Berube checks the catcher as she takes a lead off of first base against Benson.

To date this season, Morenci is averaging a 10-5 (236-122) score per game, Miami a 9-9 (223-222) score per game, and Bisbee a 10-14 (136-202) score per game or 4-run deficit. But the coaching staff will have the Wildcats focused on each opponent as they meet, not looking past them into the post-season.

Other region pairings for the rest of the week include Willcox at Tombstone on April 25 and Benson at Pima on April 26.

Non-region contests for region members include Tucson Pusch Ridge Christian at Benson and Phoenix Madison Highland Prep at Pima on April 25, Tucson Desert Christian at Willcox on April 26, and Elfrida Valley Union at Bisbee on Wednesday, April 27.

Coming out of the weekend, the current 2A East Region standings are Benson (21-6 overall, 9-0 region) first, Willcox (21-9, 7-3 region) second, Morenci (15-8, 6-3 region) third, Pima (10-14, 3-6 region) fourth, Bisbee (5-9, 3-6 region) fifth, and Tombstone (4-15, 0-9 region) sixth.

Rankings for region members are No. 1 Benson (13-1 seeding, 16.4123 rating) of 35 teams, Willcox No. 6 (11-3, 8.4325), Morenci No. 7 (9-5, 7.6824), Pima No. 15 (6-8, minus 0.8436), Bisbee No. 16 (5-9, minus 2.2024), and Tombstone No. 23 (4-13, minus 7.7601).

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Kay’Leigh Blair lets a pitch go by. The Morenci sophomore slap-hitter had one of 12 hits recorded by the hosts, batting .250 (1-4).

Results of region pairings through April 13 are Benson topping Pima 23-3 in five innings (March 1), Willcox 7-2 (March 23), Bisbee 23-5 in five innings (March 24), Morenci 12-1 in five innings (March 29), Tombstone 22-2 in five innings (April 5), Willcox 9-4 (April 8), Tombstone 21-0 in five innings (April 11), Bisbee 21-1 in five innings (April 19), and Morenci 10-9 (April 23); Willcox downing Bisbee 16-2 in five innings (April 6), Morenci 14-7 (April 12), Tombstone 15-1 in five innings (April 15), Pima 23-6 and 22-2 in five innings (April 19), and Bisbee 16-6 in six innings (April 22); Morenci dispatching Bisbee 21-6 in five innings on March 18, Pima 19-1 in five innings (March 22), Tombstone 23-2 in five innings (March 23), Willcox 9-8 in 11 innings (April 5), Pima 13-1 in five innings (April 8), and Tombstone 24-2 in five innings (April 19); Bisbee defeating Tombstone 13-6 (March 22) and 17-7 (April 8), and Pima 18-14 (April 12); and Pima besting Tombstone 17-9 (March 28), Bisbee 18-5 in five innings (April 13), and Tombstone 14-4 in five innings (April 22).

Morenci went 2-3 during the past two weeks, also splitting a pair of non-region games. The Wildcats succumbed 6-8 to the Eloy Santa Cruz Dust Devils in Morenci (April 14) and slipped past the Ray Bearcats 4-1 in Kearny (April 20).

Benson – 10, Morenci – 9

“That’s the closest we’ve played Benson in a long time,” Garcia said. Prior to the April 23 region contest, Morenci was 1-9 against the perennial state title-contending Bobcats under Garcia, the most recent being a 1-12 five innings loss in Benson on March 29. The Wildcats fell to the Bobcats by a lone run twice before, 1-2 during eight innings in the 2018 state semifinals (May 5) and 1-2 during a 2017 region pairing (March 7) in Benson, and won by a run 6-5 during the second 2017 region pairing (April 4) in Morenci.

Morenci held the Bobcats scoreless during their initial plate appearance, allowing a lone runner on amidst a pair of fly-outs and a ground out.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The Wildcats lined up to honor the memory of a former teammate, Class of 2019 grad Jaim’ee Marie Rodriguez who lost her life on Dec. 15, 2020. Red and Black balloons were released prior to the start of the game with Benson on April 23.

The Wildcats’ lead-off hitter, senior Juliauna Forgach-Aguilar, drilled a full-count pitch over the leftfield fence. Third hitter junior Mia Ontiveros doubled on following a fly out, sophomore Alizabeth Aguilar singled her in, and junior Alicia Cruz singled in Aguilar, junior Celina Manuz singled on, and the next two batters struck out, retiring the side with Morenci having a 3-0 advantage on the top-ranked Bobcats. However, it would be the home team’s last lead of the game.

Benson belted four consecutive second inning singles, driving in a run twice and adding a third on a passed ball. The Bobcats took the lead for good with a two-out third-inning home run; added four in the fourth, singling in a run twice, one on a passed ball, and another on a fielding error; and one in the fifth on another error.

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Alizabeth Aguilar checks the runner at first before getting rid of the ball. The Morenci sophomore connected for a 3-run fifth-inning home run, her fourth of the season, paring the deficit to one run.

Morenci added one in the third on junior Mia Ontiveros’ bases-empty home run; two in the fourth on a bases-loaded walk and a bases-loaded sacrifice fly; and three in the sixth on a 3-run Alizabeth Aguilar home run.

The teams were both retired in order during the seventh inning, Benson on two ground outs and a fly out, and Morenci on three strikeouts.

For the game, Morenci batted .375 (12-32), left 10 runners on, and committed four errors compared to .382 (13-34), six stranded runners, and two errors for Benson. Both teams had eight of nine batters recording at least one hit.

Junior Alicia Cruz batted 1.000 (2-2, 2 RBIs), Ontiveros .750 (3-4, 2 doubles, home run, RBI), Alizabeth Aguilar .667 (2-3, 3 RBIs), Manuz .500 (1-2, sac, RBI), senior Devanie Medina, sophomore Kay’Leigh Blair, and freshman Cameryn Woodall .250 (1-4) apiece, and Juliauna Forgach-Aguilar .200 (1-5),

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Celina Manuz observes the pitcher from the on-deck circle. The Morenci junior belted a fourth-inning sacrifice fly to drive in a run. All nine runs were driven in by Morenci, with eight being earned. Benson drove in six of 10, with three as earned runs.

In the circle, Woodall gave up three earned runs, yielded 13 hits, struck out one, and walked two while facing 36 batters during seven innings.

For Benson, sophomore Riley Francione batted .750 (3-4, RBI), junior Tatum Benson (RBI), sophomore Nevaeh Trejo (home run, 2 RBIs) and freshman Sadie French .500 (2-4) apiece, senior Reya Adkins .333 (1-2), and juniors Grace Parke and Celine Wilharm (RBI) both .250 (1-4).

In the circle, starter Wilharm had eight earned runs, yielded 12 hits, struck out seven, and walked four while facing 31 batters during five innings. Junior reliever Trinity Bullock struck out six and walked two while facing eight batters during two innings.

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