The Superior softball team defeated third-seeded Bagdad, 13 – 7, at Arizona State’s Farrington Stadium on Monday night to win the 2018 1A Softball State Championship. It was the Panthers’ second state title in the last four years. They last won it in 2015, making this year’s seniors two-time state champions.
After a scoreless first inning, the No. 1-seed Panthers used a combination of powerful hitting, speed and aggressive baserunning in the bottom of the second to take a commanding 7 – 0 lead early.
“We had to,” Superior head coach Martin Navarrette said afterwards about his team’s need to be aggressive. “We knew they could score runs, we knew they could swing the bat. We knew we had to score first to put the pressure on them and that’s exactly what we did.”
Indeed, the Panthers did, and it all started after two outs.
Lindsay Ketron doubled to start the rally and the next six hitters all reached and eventually came around to score. Analysse Jaurez, McKenna Duarte, Anisah Cardenas, Kiki Arriola, and Marisa Estatico all had RBI hits in the inning. The biggest was Estatico’s two-run triple, which was one of two triples she hit in the game.
With Arriola, the best pitcher in the conference, in the circle, a 7 – 0 lead would seemingly mean game over, but the Sultans showed some fight, answering the Panthers’ big inning with two runs in the third. The Panthers continued their offensive onslaught, scoring four more in the third and another in the fourth. They held a 12 – 2 lead entering the fifth, needing three outs to clinch the championship.
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Not so fast, however.
Bagdad benefitted from Arriola’s temporary inability to command the strike zone and it was able to take advantage, rallying for four runs to at least put the Panthers’ celebration on hold.
“I think it was her adrenaline, she was pumped,” Navarrette said about his ace. “My hat’s off to Bagdad, they swung the bats and scored the big runs when it need them.
“Kiki’s a senior, so she calmed down and did what she needed to.”
The Panthers’ defense helped pick up Arriola, who issued an uncharacteristic four walks in the fifth.
“My defense was behind me,” Arriola said. “I’m so grateful for the team(mates) that I have.”
It didn’t take long for Arriola to get back on track in the circle, but first she continued her perfect night (4-for-4) at the plate, blasting a homerun over the wall in left field.
The solo dinger was a dream come true, literally.
“I actually had a dream that I hit it out at ASU Stadium and it happened today,” she told reporters after the game. “It’s way better than the dream, way better.”
The adrenaline was certainly pumping again inside the circle in the sixth, but this time it yielded far different results as Arriola fanned the side.
After a perfect game against St. Michael in the state quarterfinals, Arriola gave a “no comment” when asked about her performance in that game. There were bigger innings ahead.
“I didn’t want to get ahead of myself,” she explained. “I wanted to stay humble about what I’ve been doing.”
Bagdad added a run in the seventh, but it was just for cosmetics. Superior started fast and never really was in danger of blowing a 10-run lead.
“Now that we’ve finally pulled it off it feels so much better,” said Arriola, a Glendale Community College commit.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but we deserve it,” she added. “We worked hard for this. It’s so amazing. I can’t even explain the emotions going through my head right now.”
No doubt, Arriola is not the only Panthers’ player feeling the same emotions.
Superior is Title Town once again.