By Nolberto Waddell
Hayden – The 22nd Annual Lobos Softball Invitational took place over Easter weekend, with 10 teams representing three of the four A.I.A. Divisions taking part in the action. Emerging as the champions were the San Manuel Lady Miners.
From Division II came the Lady Panthers of Amphi High School and the always competitive Lady Bulldogs of Douglas High School. From Division III were the San Tan Foothills Sabercats, the San Carlos High School Braves, the Thatcher Eagles, the Globe High School Tigers and the Safford High School Bulldogs. Division IV teams were the Willcox Cowgirls, the San Manuel Miners and the host, Hayden High School Lobos.
Action started early Friday morning with games played on both the high school and little league fields, as well as the Hayden Golf Course. In the first games, the Lady Lobos of Hayden defeated the San Carlos Braves 14 – 0. In the other early game, Thatcher pulled out an 8 -5 win over San Tan Foothills. Play continued in the winner’s bracket, with San Manuel overpowering the Cowgirls of Willcox, 11 – 1. Amphi and Globe tangled in an exciting, close game resulting in Amphi coming away with a 10 – 9 win over the Tigers. Finishing the first round of games in the winner’s bracket, Douglas defeated Thatcher 13 – 0 and the Lady Lobos defeated the Safford Lady Bulldogs 13 – 6.
The first elimination games took place next, with the Willcox Cowgirls dominating the San Carlos Lady Braves 19 – 0 to advance in the lower bracket. Also advancing in the lower bracket were the San Tan Foothills Sabercats with a close and exciting 11 – 10 score over the Tigers of Globe.
Action returned to the winner’s bracket with the Lady Lobos defeating the Amphi Panthers 7 – 1 and the Douglas Bulldogs sending the Miners of San Manuel to the lower bracket with a 16 – 5 win to end play on Friday.
Play continued early Saturday with two lower bracket games. In one game, the Thatcher Eagles eliminated the Willcox Cowgirls with a 12 – 1 score and the Safford Bulldogs sent the San Tan Sabercats home with a 17 – 9 score to advance in the lower bracket. Next on the schedule were two guaranteed games for teams eliminated from competition, with Willcox defeating San Tan 12-1 and Globe winning by forfeit over San Carlos.
More elimination games continued in the afternoon play, with Thatcher sending Amphi home with a 13 – 2 win and the San Manuel Miners eliminating the Safford Bulldogs 15 – 3. In another elimination game, the San Manuel Miners shut out the Thatcher Eagles 11 – 0 to send the Eagles home and advance to the first trophy game of the day.
In a winner’s bracket game, the Douglas Bulldogs advanced to the championship game with a 13 – 9 win over the Lady Lobos, sending the Lobos to a showdown with the Miners, with the winners going up against Douglas for the championship and the loser to the stands with the third place trophy.
The third place game was a good one. The Lobos threatened, but, did not score in the top of the first. In the bottom of the first, after two outs, the Miners took a two-run lead on back-to-back home runs by Alyssa Cuellar and Felicia Medina. The Lady Lobos fought back to tie the score at two, on hits by Melinda Marinez, a double by Devin Estrada, a sacrifice fly by Kyana Garcia and an RBI single by Melissa Islava.
The Miners came right back after two outs. Mackenzie White walked and scored on a home run by Angelica Zuniga to give the Miners the lead, 4 – 2. The Lobos added a run in the fifth inning to cut the score, but the Miners came storming back in the sixth with three runs hits by Felicia Medina and Lyana Waddell to take a 7 – 3 lead into the final inning. The Lobos made a comeback attempt in the seventh inning, but could only score one run to lose the game 7 – 4. The Lobos were presented the third place trophy and the Miners went to the championship game for a rematch with Douglas.
The championship game turned into one heck of a late-inning showdown. It looked like a runaway for the Bulldogs after three innings, taking an 8 – 3 lead on the strength of five hits and two errors. The San Manuel coach made a pitching change, bringing in Lyana Waddell to the pitching circle. Waddell responded by holding the aggressive Bulldog hitters to only four hits and two runs the rest of the game, to set up an amazing bottom of the seventh inning comeback win by the Miners.
The inning started with a ground rule double by Mariah McBride. Ashley Vargas reached base on an error. Two outs followed but, did not stop the Miners determination. Alyssa Cuellar walked to load the based and up came Felicia Medina who sent a laser shot over the left field fence to cut the Bulldog lead to 10 – 9. The Miners were on the run.
Mackenzie white reached base on an error and Angelica Zuniga got a hit to put the Miners at second and third. Up came Lyana Waddell, sending a shot off the left field fence, scoring the two runs for the exciting 11 – 10 comeback over the Douglas Bulldogs.
The Miners took a break from their celebration, as the All-Tournament selections were announced and the Runner-Up trophy went to Douglas, with the amazing San Manuel Miners receiving the Championship trophy of the invitational tournament.
The All-Tournament team had Destinee Barajas from Globe, Indonesia Sheppard from Willcox, Andreana Trejo from San Tan Foothills, Ashleih Stearns from Safford and Kenya Boewn from Amphi. From fourth place Thatcher came Danica Cooke and Ashley McBride. Third place Hayden had Marlisse Perez, Devin Estrada and Melissa Islava on the team. Second place Douglas had Andrea Lugo, Marissa Morales, Jocyln Vasquez and Sydnea Estrella. The Champion Miners placed Mireya Tamayo, Angelica Zuniga, Felicia Medina, Alyssa Cuellar and Lyana Waddell on the All-Tournament team.
Before the start of the championship game, the Hayden Lobos softball team presented a plaque to Douglas Head Coach, Abe Grijalva, who is retiring after 30 years of teaching and 17 years as head coach of the Douglas Bulldog Softball team.
With the end of the Lobos’ Tournament, the Hayden High School Lobos team and coaches along with Athletic Director Lydia Martinez would like to give a big thank you to all who helped: the cooks of all the great food, the concession stand workers, the grounds keepers, and, Tournament Director Mr. Art “Tudy” Alvarado, for another successful tournament.