By Nolberto Waddell
Starting on May 2, 24 girls high school softball teams began play in the 2013 AIA Division V State Softball Playoffs. Four area schools had win-loss records that awarded them a chance to be a state champion. One of the five would come home as a State Championship team.
Three of the area teams started play on May 2, with the winners advancing in the tournament and the losers going home. The no. 21 seed Superior Lady Panthers had to call it a season losing to no. 12 seeded Youth Catholic Lady Shamrocks. The no. 14 seed Miami Lady Vandals defeated the number 19 seed Joseph City Lady Wildcats.
The no. 10 ranked Ray High Lady Bearcats ran all over the no. 23 seed Wildcats High School Lady Vikings to set up a contest against their rivals, the number seven seed Hayden Lady Lobos. Also scheduled to play the next day were the number two seeded Lady Miners of San Manuel High School meeting the team that ended their season last year, the no. 15 seed St. David Lady Tigers.
The second round early grades had the Lady Vandals take on and upset the three-seeded Tanque Verde Lady Hawks with a 5 – 4 score. Up next were the rivals going at each other.
The Hayden Lady Lobos took a 5 -0 lead in the first few innings and held on to the end the Ray High Lady Bearcats season making the 5-0 score stand. In the last game of the night session the San Manuel Lady Miners behind the hitting of the entire team and the pitching of Lyana Waddell, who held St. David to only four hits and a single run in their 11 – 1 win to advance to the next round, where the hard hitting Lady Lobos were waiting.
The Miami Lady Vandals continued their great play, defending another top seed and sending the six-seeded Phoenix Christian Lady Cougars home with a 4-1 win. They advanced to the semi-finals against the winner of the Hayden- San Manuel game.
The Miner-Lobos game and the area around the field packed with red clad Miner fans and the blue clad Lobo fans making for an intense game on the field. Nicole Encinas started in the pitching circle for the Lady Miners and soon ran into trouble when three errors and three hits gave the Lobos a 4-0 lead before the Miners had a turn at bat. In the Miner half of the first inning, Lobo pitcher Marlisse Perez put down the Miner batters in order.
The second inning, again, had the Lobos bats hot. After one out, three consecutive hits and a passed ball gave the Lobos what seemed an insurmountable 7 – 0 lead. Miner coach Deanne Brewer had seen enough. She called timeout, brought in Lyana Waddell into the pitching circle in hope of cooling off the Lobos bats. Waddell did just that.
The hard-hitting Lobos hitters could not stop her pitching and Perez again put down the Miners scoreless. The top of the third had Waddell putting down the Lobos in order. The Miner rally cars came on in the third. Two hits and an error loaded the bases with Miners. A hit to left field by Felicia Gomez scored two runs. After an out, Felicia Medina knocked in the third run with another hit to cut the Lobos lead to 7-3 and momentum switching uniforms.
Waddell held Lobos batter allowing only a walk in the fourth inning. In the Miner half after one out, Encinas reached based with a hit, advanced to second on the second out and came in to score on another hit by Gomez.
Up came Alyssa Cuellar, who sent the first pitch from Perez over the center field fence for a two-run homer to cut further into the Lobos lead, 7 – 6. The Miners took advantage of four Lobo errors in the fifth to overcome the Lobos and now lead 10-7 after five innings. The top of the sixth was another 1-2-3 inning by the Miner defender, the Miners added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth to head into the final inning leading 11-7.
The Lobos finally got a hit off Waddell, but, it was too little too late, as the Miner defense did not allow a run to score. The stunned Lobos fans could not believe what they saw; the turbulent Miner fans let out a big sigh of relief and started to celebrate one heck of a comeback.
The pitch performance by Lyana Waddell advanced her team to the semi-finals for their third meeting with the Miami Lady Vandals.
Most fans thought that the Miners-Vandal game would be an easy one for the Miners. After all, they had already defeated the Vandals twice in the regular season. It would not be so.
The inspired Vandals had already disposed of the two highly seeded teams and another did not rattle them. The pressure of such an intense tournament seemed to be getting to the young Miners, who looked vulnerable in this game. The Miners trailed 1-0 after three innings and finally took a 2-1 lead after five innings.
The Vandals kept coming, but the Miners defense stood up to all the Vandals attacks. The Miners added the all-important third run in the sixth inning on a Vandals throwing error. The seventh inning looked like the Vandals were going to make a run at the Miner lead. The Vandal lead-off batter, standing at second after a hit and an error, tried to score but a perfectly executed relay play on a hit to center caught the runner at home for two outs.
The Vandals scored a run, but the game ended on a routine ground-out to short stop. The Miners got a breathtaking 3-2 win and a chance at a state championship against the top seed of the tournament, the Phoenix Northwest Christian Lady Crusaders.
The championship game turned into a pitching duel between the teams, with this only score on the board coming from a laser shot off the bat of Angelica Zuniga over the left field fence in the second inning.
The Crusader’s Elizabeth Bostwick and the Miners Lyana Waddell took turns putting down the competition. In the bottom of the sixth, the Crusader’s finally solved Waddell. After two quick outs, the next batter got a double. It looked like would end, but an error at short stop put the Crusaders at the corners. The next batter scored two runs, giving the Crusader fans much to brag about with their team leading 2-1.
The seventh did not look good for the Miners. Lyana Waddell led off with a four-pitch walk, but two outs quickly followed. Out came those rally cars: a hit by Tamayo and a walk to Gomez loaded the bases with Miners. Struggling at the plate, Alyssa Cuellar was up next.
Coach Brewer called time-out to calm her down and give her some instructions. It worked. Cuellar drew a bases-loaded walk that scored Waddell to tie the game at two. It rattled Crusader pitcher Felicia Medina, as she allowed a two-run hit and an RBI hit by Mackenzie Vindiulia to give the Lady Miners a 5-2 lead.
The Crusaders were still alive with their turn at bat in the seventh. The tension could be seen on Waddell’s face. The first two batters got hits to put runners at second and third. The next batter flung out to right, scoring a run on the throw in.
The next batter hit a ground ball to a nervous Waddell, who bobbled the ball, allowing the fourth run score and the tying run at first. Coach Brewer calmed Waddell down.
The next batter sent a slow roller back toward Waddell, which she mishandled again, but she composed herself long enough to pick up the ball and throw to first for the final out for a very intense, very hard fought victory, over the disbelieving Crusader players.
It was nerve-wracking. It was heart-stopping. It was memorable. Nobody had given the young Lady Miners a chance against the talented Crusaders, but they did it.
Congratulations, Lady Miners! You are a young team, and many, many memories are yet to be made. Remember the championship feeling.