Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: The Wildcats lined up along the first baseline after being introduced as the visiting team. Morenci was in its second semifinal game in four years, the first under 3rd-year head coach Joseph Garcia (63-28-1 overall, 29-7 region, 5-3 state playoffs).
By Raymundo Frasquillo
PHOENIX – Tears of disappointment fell freely from the eyes of the No. 4 Wildcats following the season-ending loss to Benson. The top-ranked Bobcats made it three wins over the Wildcats in 2019, 4-1 in Morenci on March 26, 5-1 in Benson on April 18, and 4-1 in the semifinals at the Rose Mofford Softball Complex on May 10.
A journey beginning long before the season started abruptly ended not as the Wildcats had hoped it would. They did what they could.
The coaching staff prepared and armed them with knowledge of how to overcome what they would face.
“The pressure is on them,” third-year Morenci head softball Coach Joseph Garcia had said.
However, not being able to adjust and preparation by their opponent dashed the hopes of playing one more game. Two-thirds of the batting order went a combined 0-15 and the other third 4-9.
Benson advanced to the May 14 Arizona State University championship game venue, but, a 6-2 six-inning lead could not guarantee a three-peat. The Bobcats succumbed 10-7 on an 8-run, 7th-inning rally by No. 3 Camp Verde.
Benson – 4, Morenci – 1
Excepting a walk awarded to senior Heather Lee, the Wildcats did not advance past first base on their initial at-bat, or during the next three frames, going three-up and three-down twice before No. 2 batter junior Angel Ontiveros singled on in the fourth with no outs.
Benson lead-off batter sophomore Emily Darwin doubled on and was singled in by senior Katie Sherman for a 1-0 advantage with one out. A double by senior Abby Workman did not allow Sherman to come in, and successive outs were recorded by the next two batters.
The Bobcats sent five and six batters up in the ensuing frames but left two and three runners on, respectively Senior Mikayla Wales reached first on an error and advanced to third on another error, and Sherman doubled her in with two outs for a 2-1 edge after four.
Morenci scored in the fifth inning, No. 7 batter freshman Devanie Medina singled on with one out, advanced to second on sophomore Hunter Lindsey’s single, reached third on sophomore Candace Forgach-Aguilar’s fake bunt and Lindsey’s stolen base attempt, and lit up the visitors’ side of the scoreboard with two outs.
Benson No. 5 batter junior Letty Lopez singled on in the bottom of the fifth with no outs, and freshman Taylor Fenn singled her in with two outs before a ground out sent the Bobcats back to defense.
The Wildcats were retired in order during the sixth.
Darwin notched a bases-empty home run to give Benson a 4-1 advantage, and five more Bobcats stepped to the plate before three outs were recorded.
In the seventh, senior Dominique Garcia received a one-out walk and was forced out on a fielder’s choice by senior Destiny Chavarria, Medina singled on, and a ground out ended the game.
The Wildcats batted .197 (4-24), struck out four times, walked twice, left four runners on, and committed two errors versus .419 (13-31), two strikeouts, a walk, 11 stranded runners, and no errors by the Bobcats.
Medina batted .667 (2-3), and both Ontiveros and Lindsey .333 (1-3).
In the circle, Rodriguez struck out two, walked one, and allowed 13 hits while facing 33 batters during six innings.
Three Bobcats netted multiple hits, Darwin (2 doubles, home run, RBI) and Workman (2 doubles) both batted .750 (3-4), and Sherman .500 (2-4, double, 2 RBIs). Additionally, Lopez batted .500 (1-2), sophomore Kayla Sherman, Fenn (RBI) and Wales .333 (1-3) apiece, and senior Ally Fenn .250 (1-4).
Katie Sherman struck out four, walked two, and allowed four hits while facing 26 batters during seven innings.
In the first two state tourney games, the Wildcats batted a combined .261 (12-46), left 14 runners on, struck out five times, received eight walks, got beaned twice, posted two sacrifices and committed eight errors compared to .158 (19-57), 16 strikeouts, 10 stranded runners, and four errors for their opponents.
2019 State Tourney
The semifinal round had the top four seeds meeting on the Rose Mofford Softball Complex May 10. Top-ranked Benson (18-0 seeding record, 20.5449 rating) ousted No. 4 Morenci (12-4, 8.7873) 4-1 and No. 2 Goodyear Trivium Prep (17-0, 16.6080) was blanked by No. 3 Camp Verde (15-3, 14.4857) 4-0.
All of the Top 16 teams squared off for the first two rounds on the Rose Mofford Softball Complex May 3-4.
Second round pairings or quarterfinals were Benson over No. 9 Phoenix Arizona Lutheran (14-4, 6. 6274) 10-0 in six innings, Morenci over No. 5 San Manuel (15-3, 8.4888) 2-1, Camp Verde over No. 6 Globe (16-3, 8.4835) 10-0 (6 inn.), and Trivium Prep over No. 10 Thatcher (10-7, 4.3635) 13-3 (6 inn.) May 4.
First round results were Benson over No. 16 Phoenix Christian (10-7, 0.3907) 24-0, Arizona Lutheran over No. 8 Saint Johns (15-3, 6.5755) 8-2, San Manuel over No. 12 Willcox (7-9, 3.1295) 12-2, Morenci over No. 13 Round Valley (10-7, 2.2225) 6-4, Camp Verde over No. 14 Laveen Heritage (10-6, 0.6027) 14-0, Globe over No. 11 Chandler Prep (12-4, 4.2731) 6-5, Thatcher over No. 7 Flagstaff Northland Prep (13-3, 7.9372) 11-7, and Trivium Prep over No. 15 Pima (8-11, 0.5513) 6-1 May 3.
2019 Play-in Round
All eight pairings between the No. 9-24 rated teams were won by the higher seeds on May 1.
Advancing were No. 9 Arizona Lutheran, 8-6 over No. 24 Eloy Santa Cruz (6-9, minus 4.2050); No. 10 Thatcher, 20-9 over No. 23 Tonopah Valley (9-9, minus 2.7721); No. 11 Chandler Prep, 15-4 over No. 22 Parker (6-13, minus 2.5245); No. 12 Willcox, 16-8 over No. 21 Whiteriver Alchesay (10-8, minus 2.2197); No. 13 Round Valley, 6-1 over No. 20 Phoenix North Pointe Prep (9-9, minus 2.1133); No. 14 Heritage, 16-6 over No. 19 Scottsdale Christian (10-6, minus 1.1521); No. 15 Pima, 13-1 over No. 18 Wellton Antelope (11-5, minus 1.0265); and No. 16 Phoenix Christian, 10-9 over No. 17 Miami (9-7, minus 0.6209).