By Frank Smith
The San Manuel Lady Miners varsity softball team captured the Division IV State Softball Championship by defeating the North West Christian Crusaders 5 – 4 on May 11 at the Rose Mofford Softball Complex in Phoenix.
The Lady Miners entered the semi-finals as the #2 seed and first faced off against the #14 seed the Miami Lady Vandals on May 10 in the Semi-Finals and won 3 – 2 in a very close match-up to advance to the finals.
San Manuel had played Miami twice before during the regular season beating the Lady Vandals 5 – 3 and 11 – 5. But this time around the difference was a single run.
The Lady Miners scored late in the game, scoring two runs in the fifth inning and one run in the sixth inning; Lyana Waddell led the fifth inning with a walk; Mariah McBride followed with another walk; Nicole Encinas got out on base a sacrifice bunt moving runners to scoring position, and Mireya Tamayo then hit a single to drive in both runs.
In the sixth inning the Lady Miners scored with one out. Angelica Zuniga had drawn a walk and Waddell got hit by a pitch. McBride attempted a sacrifice bunt, but Miami was unable to handle it, making an error at first and allowing Zuniga to score.
Miami scored one run in the third inning when the eighth hitter in the lineup Garcia, got on with a single, and got to second on an error at short. She got to third on a passed ball. The number nine hitter struck out, but Johnson, who was the top of the line up, singled driving Garcia in to score. San Manuel held them until the top of the seventh when on two outs Johnson again singled and was followed by Mawson with a double driving Johnson in. The inning ended when the next batter grounded out to the short stop.
In the circle was Lyana Waddell with Felicia Medina catching. Waddell faced 30 batters in seven innings allowing two runs (earned) on eight hits, recording three strikeouts and one walk.
At the plate, Mireya Tamayo went 2 for 4 with two singles, and one RBI; Felicia Medina went 2 for 3 with two doubles; and Mariah McBride had one RBI.
“This was a tough game for us. Miami came out ready to play and they gave us a great game. When you see the same team three times in one season, and you’ve already beat them twice…that third game can be scary,” Head Coach Deanne Brewer said. “We went to the plate very aggressively, but we were swinging at the high ball. We really hurt ourselves by not being disciplined. We squeezed out four hits. That’s not a normal game for us. We went to the short game and Miami struggled with it. We worked very hard this season not only on the short game, but ball placement in the short game. Every bunt we put down was down the first base side. I believe that gave us the momentum we needed.”
In the Championship game, it was the #1 seed Northwest Christian against the #2 seed San Manuel – the way brackets are destined to be, pitting the best against the best. This was a game for the ages … a true championship game.
The Lady Miners wore their mantra on the shirts that read, “More Hustle, More Heart, More Sweat, More Desire” and that could of not been “More True” as the young San Manuel team displayed the all of the above and then some to show the poise of a true an tested team to win it all.
Brewer said, “Intense. This game was intense. We scored one run in the second inning when Zuniga hit a solo homer. We stayed up 1-0 until the bottom of the sixth inning when Northwest scored two runs on two outs.”
The Lady Miners came up to bat in the top of the first inning with Mireya Tamayo popping up to the first baseman. Felicia Gomez then grounded out to the third baseman, and Alyssa Cuellar struck out for the third out of the inning; San Manuel scored no runs on no hits with no errors and no runners left on base.
In the bottom half of the first inning, the first NW batter hit a ground ball to second base. The throw was mishandled at first base but quickly recovered and thrown back to second. The runner was tagged out in an attempt for an extra base. The second batter hit a fly ball to right field for the second out of the inning. The next batter drew a walk and the next batter flied out to right field for the third out of the inning. Northwest scored no runs on no hits or errors, and left one on base for a score of 0 – 0.
In the second inning, Felicia Medina lined out to the short stop. Mackenzie Vindiola popped up to the short stop. Angelica Zuniga took the second pitch of the at bat deep over the left field fence on a line drive for the solo home run to bring the score 1 – 0 in favor of San Manuel. Waddell struck out to end the inning. The Miners scored one run on one hit with no errors and no runners left on base. San Manuel took the lead 1 – 0.
NW’s first batter came to bat and got on base with a double to the gap between left and center field. The next batter popped up to the short stop. The third batter hit a blooper just behind second base to move the runner over to third base. With the fourth batter at the plate, San Manuel’s catcher Medina threw the ball back to third base to pick off the runner at third for the second out of the inning. NW’s next batter struck out to end the inning. The Lady Crusaders scored no runs on two hits with no errors and one runner left on base. The score was still 1 – 0.
In the third inning, SM’s McBride popped up to the short stop. Encinas got thrown out at third base after reaching base on a bunt and attempting to get an extra base on a steal. Tamayo and Gomez got on base and then Cuellar flied out to center field for the third out of the inning. The Lady Miners scored no runs on one hit with one error and two runners left one base. The score was still 1 – 0.
Northwest came to bat in the third. The first batter for the inning lined out to center field, the second batter got a single, the next batter drew a walk, the next batter flied out to left field, and the next batter grounded out to the short stop for the third out of the inning. Northwest scored no runs, on one hit with two runners left on base, leaving the score 1-0.
In the fourth inning, Medina flied out to left field, Vindiola popped up to the short stop, and Zuniga grounded out to second base; the Lady Miners had no runs on no hits with no errors and no runners left on base, the base was 1 – 0.
Northwest came to bat in the bottom half of the inning, the first batter popped up to short stop, the second batter struck out, the next batter hit a single and took second base on a passed ball, the next batter popped up to second base for the third out of the inning; North West scored no runs on one hit with one error and one left on base, score was still 1 – 0 San Manuel.
In the fifth inning, Waddell drew a walk, McBride struck out, Encinas hustled for a single, Tamayo singled to centerfield to load the bases with Gomez coming up to bat – Gomez popped up to the short stop, Cuellar had the bases loaded but she grounded out to the pitcher; San Manuel scored no runs on two hits with no errors and three runners left on base, with the score still 1 – 0.
The Lady Crusaders came up to bat with the first two batters grounded out for the first two outs and the third batter popped up to the second baseman to end the inning; no runs, no hits, no errors, and no one left on base.
In the sixth inning, Medina flied to center, Vindiola grounded out to the pitcher, and Zuniga grounded out to third base; no run, no hits,no and no errors with no one left on base, with no one left on base.
In the bottom half of the inning, the first batter grounded out to second base, the second batter popped up to the short stop for the second out of the inning, the third batter hit a double to left field, the next batter got on base with an error on the short stop, the fifth batter dropped a single over second base to score a run, the sixth batter hit a single into left field to score another run to take the lead 2 – 1, the seventh batter grounded out to the short stop to end the inning; North West scored two runs on three hits, on one error and had two runners left on base, the score was now 2 – 1 in favor of Northwest.
But what happens when the pressure is on?
“We rally,” Brewer said. “We have been that team all year. We are good when the pressure is on. We are great in a two out situation.”
In the top of the seventh inning, the Lady Miners battled back. Waddell came up to bat and drew a walk. McBride struck out. Encinas grounded out to the third baseman.
“Here comes the rally,” Brewer said. “Tamayo singled to get herself on base. Gomez drew a walk. I knew their pitcher was rattled and we had the meat of our line-up coming up. I told them to wait for their pitch. Look for one pitch and to keep the bat on their shoulder until they got that pitch. I knew the more pitches their pitcher had to throw the better opportunity we had to make something happen.”
Gomez drew a walk loading the bases.
“We had had loaded bases earlier in the game, but I knew the pressure was really on Northwest at that point,” Brewer said.
Cuellar came to the plate and she had been struggling to get her bat going for the past couple of at bats, Brewer explained. The coach called time out to talk to her and “settle her down. I told her she was in the driver seat and she needed to look for her pitch.”
Cuellar did. She drew a walk scoring Waddell and tying up the game.
Then Medina stepped to the plate. “Medina has been solid all season,” Brewer said. “I never doubt this kid. I knew she was going to make it happen and sure enough she did.”
With the bases still loaded Medina stepped to the plate and hit a single to right field scoring Tamayo and Gomez to score two runs. Vindiola came to bat and hit a shot into left field to score Cuellar to add to the lead. Zuniga came up to bat and grounded out to the short stop. When the dust settled, the Lady Miners scored four runs on three hits with no errors and two left on base. San Manuel now had the upper hand, 5-2, leaving Northwest Christian with last bats.
Northwest had the top of their line-up coming to the plate.
The coach told Waddell to keep the ball down so SM could get ground balls. “We didn’t want them on base,” Brewer said.
NW’s first batter hit a double into left field. The next batter hit another double into left field to move the runner from second base to third. The third batter hit a sacrifice fly to score the first batter who tagged up. The fourth batter hit a single that was bobbled by the pitcher to score another run to cut San Manuel’s lead to 5-4 with one out and a runner on first base.
Brewer’s thoughts were, “These two runs don’t matter. We have to get outs.”
The next batter hit a short fly to Encinas in right field which she made a shoe-string catch and threw the ball to home in an effort to get the runner. The throw was high and she was safe. Runner was at third one out. The next batter Rodenkick hit a ball back to Waddell that she bobbled and couldn’t make a play on, scoring yet another run. Runner at first, one out. Petlit hit a ball to short that McBride threw to Tamayo at second to get the second out. And the praying begins… the next batter hits a ball to Waddell that she bobbles, recovers and throws the batter out at first. Miners win 5-4!
In the circle was Waddell with Medina catching, Waddell faced 33 batters allowing four runs (two earned) on nine hits, recorded one strikeout, two walks, two stolen bases, and one passed ball.
At the plate, Mireya Tamayo went 2 for 4 with a singles; Felicia Gomez went 1 for 3 with a single; Alyssa Cuellar went 0 for 3 with a walk, and one RBI; Felicia Medina went 1 for 4, with a single, and two RBIs; Mackenzie Vindiola went 1 for 4 with a single, and an RBI;Angelica Zuniga went 1 for 4 with a home run, and one RBI; and Nicole Encinas went 2 for 2 with singles, and a sacrifice.
“We had a great season,” Brewer said. “These girls came a long way. At the beginning of the season we were going to the batter’s box looking scared, by the end of the season we are pounding the ball. We improved by leaps and bounds when it came to executing the short game and defensively. The unity of these girls is unbelievable. They believed in themselves and their teammates, they trusted the coaches and did what was asked of them. The parents supported us the whole way. I cannot thank the parents enough for their support of the program and my coaching. They let us do our jobs. That made the difference.”
Brewer continued, “You know the saying, ‘Winning is contagious’? I believe we caught the bug in the Wickenburg tournament. We had lost almost every game we played to bigger schools. We were in the consolation bracket and we had a team meeting. We decided we should take the consolation bracket. We did it and from then on (with the exception of the two losses to Empire and one to Hayden), we kept it together. During the Hayden tournament, they proved themselves and what they could do. We came back and won the tournament. It was awesome. We told them all the rest of the season to remember that feeling and capture it. It became who we were. I can’t tell you how many times we rallied with two outs. I am just so proud of my girls. They did it! We did it! Winning is fun!”
San Manuel had not been to the Championship game since 1994 when the Lady Miners, under the direction of the late Coach Jeff Rupright, defeated Show Low 7 -1 in the then 3A Division to claim the title.
The Lady Miners softball program is rich in history with Coach Shelia Baize winning the Championship titles in 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982 and taking Runners-Up titles in 1978, 1983, and 1984; Coach Jeff Rupright picked up the torch and brought home Runners-Up titles in 1986, 1987, 1991 and captured the Championship in 1990 by beating Show Low 7 – 6 in eight innings.
Current, 14-year Head Coach Deanne Brewer picked up the torch in 1999 and has been to several quarter-final and semi- finals. This was Brewer’s first trip to the finals and she did not falter – the torch that has been passed down to Brewer may have dimmed and flickered at times throughout the years but the flame never went out and now with the young team that is set to return next year…the flame seems shine as bright as ever.
Missed the action? Want to relive San Manuel’s win over Northwest Christian? Go online to http://bit.ly/17Zk4pl to view the game on video.