Chaparral surprised many by getting into the 5A Division II softball state tournament, let alone the final four. And if it weren’t for the possibility of having a little too much adrenaline for five seconds, the Firebirds might still be playing.
After she knocked in the tying run in the top of the seventh, Bryce Villalpando’s wild throw after a big double play allowed Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge to beat Chaparral, 4-3, on Wednesday night at the Rose Mofford Softball Complex.
Ironwood Ridge advances to the 5A-II softball state championship game on Friday against Glendale Deer Valley.
As it was, the 10th-seeded Firebirds had the narrowest of margins. They needed three wins in two nights just to get to the championship round and that errant throw was the difference.
“I guess I got a little too excited and threw it back to my pitcher …,” Villalpando said. “...It happened so fast, I think she was not paying attention and I threw it a little harder than I should have, but ….”
The third-seeded Nighthawks got enough off Chaparral pitcher Skylar Weinstein to edge the Firebirds for the second time in five days.
“That’s the greatest thing about softball, is that you can never know what can happen,” Chaparral first-year coach Lindsey Pelsnik said. “The girls have been fighting like no other but today I couldn’t be more prouder. Sometimes things like that happen. It is probably one of the worst ways to go out but it is part of the game.”
Chaparral trailed 1-0 early and then 3-2 going into the seventh when Kerry Durnan hit one-out single and Brooke Eifert also singled with two outs to bring up Villalpando.
The Firebird senior first baseman fought off a couple of pitches before she singled in Durnan. Kendra Coleman grounded out to end the inning but Chaparral had tied the score at 3-3.
“Well I knew that was my last chance because I’m not playing in college so it was like, ‘I can do this,’ and I just went up there with confidence and got a hit,” Villalpando said.
But Weinstein gave up a shot down the third-base line to leadoff hitter Erin Satterfield that glanced off Durnan’s glove. Jordan Rocker followed with a slap hit to the left side and reached safely.
That brought up Robin Landrith, a .400 hitter, who promptly hit a shot toward Samantha Davis at second. Davis scooped it up, tagged Rocker between first and second and then threw to Villalpando for the second out.
Weinstein thought that they would get out of the inning.
“I was right there, but mistakes happen,” she said. “Sometimes the ball gets out of your hand, you know.”
That’s when Villalpando threw wildly to Weinstein, who said she didn’t have a chance to catch it and Satterfield brought in the winning run.
“But there’s always next year,” said Weinstein, a sophomore. “There is always a state tournament next year. You always have to think positives, no negatives. You have to keep going.”
Weinstein scattered seven hits and even retired the Nighthawks in order three times but allowed a run-scoring single in the first and a two-run double in the fifth, both times to Ironwood Ridge’s lone senior, Dani Colwill.
Chaparral surprised many by making the tournament and winning two games before being sent to the loser’s bracket with a 5-3 loss to Ironwood Ridge on Saturday. The Firebirds stayed alive on Tuesday with a 5-1 win over another surprise team, No. 11 Tucson Sunnyside.
“Going into it, a lot of people doubted us,” Villalpando said. “But after winning the first couple of games, it got our confidence up. I really thought we were going to take it all this year. It’s sad that it had to come down to that.”
On the neighboring field, No. 5 Deer Valley routed No. 4 Pinnacle, 9-1, behind a dominant performance from senior pitcher Lauren Haeger.
Haeger allowed just two hits, striking out 14 and walking none to guiding Deer Valley into the championship game on Friday.
The Pioneers had surprisingly reached the semifinal round with a 3-2 upset win in 10 innings over No. 1 Horizon on Tuesday. But on Wednesday, Pinnacle could not get anything going against the Georgia-bound Haeger.
The Pioneers scratched out a run on a passed ball – the first run given up by Deer Valley in the state tournament.
Alley Gens and Katie Mcallister were the only Pioneers to get hits against Haeger.
Pinnacle needed to beat Deer Valley twice to reach Friday’s final.