It stands to reason that a girl with a third-degree black belt in karate can get - and keep - herself out of trouble.
For the second half of the softball season, Horizon freshman pitcher Tamara Statman has done a lot of that, and did it again Thursday night in the sixth-seeded Huskies' 2-1 victory against rival and No. 3-seed Xavier in the Division I softball state tournament at the Rose Mofford Complex in Phoenix.
The win - one which never comes easy when these schools meet - sends Horizon into the state quarterfinals and a matchup with No. 2 Red Mountain on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Rose Mofford.
Xavier slips into the loser's bracket and will face No. 7 Yuma Cibola in an elimination game, also on Saturday at 1 p.m.
With a wide strike zone given to both teams, the third matchup between these schools this season (the first two matchups were a split) was a pitchers' duel, as Statman and Xavier's Natalie Both held up their ends of the bargains for the better part of the evening.
But with a 2-0 lead in the fifth, it was Statman and her Huskies' defense that confronted their only hiccup of the game. Xavier's Grace Appelbe fisted a single to center that scored Lauren Johnson to make it 2-1.
Dee Leyva followed with another single to put two on with two outs and leadoff hitter Mallory Belknap stepped in. A nine-pitch at-bat ensued (with five foul balls) before Statman induced a fly out to left on a nice running catch to end the inning.
Otherwise, Statman was flawless. She allowed three total hits with 10 strikeouts on the night.
Only a 14-year-old freshman, the adjustment early in the season to high school varsity competition was troublesome at times. Unaccustomed to surrendering much of anything, schools such as Highland, Desert Mountain, Pinnacle, Glendale Deer Valley and Tucson Canyon del Oro hit her hard during the first half of the season, and the mental games began.
Horizon coach Brian Casey being a former baseball pitcher helped that cause, and the progress was on display in the final six weeks of the season - and Thursday night.
"She's learned the mental side of the game which is more important than anything," Casey said. "If she believes in herself she can dominate. She's taken the bull by the horns."
Her offense did the same. Horizon struck early with its potent top of the lineup. Nicole Newbury singled with one out in the first, Margaret Stahm ground out moved Newbury to second, and Sarah Gore smacked a pitch to center field which scored Newbury for a 1-0 lead.
Stahm led off the fourth with a single, moved to third after two ground outs, and scored when Jenna Beeso hit a spinning ball to second that bounced around the infield for a hit.
Otherwise, Both was nearly as good. She allowed six hits and struck out nine Huskies.
"They both pitched great games, moving the ball, keeping (hitters) off-balance," Xavier assistant coach Joe Bogart said. "You have to swing the bat."
To that latter point, the Gators left frustrated, but not completely defeated. Xavier has a recent history of making waves through the bottom part of the state tournament brackets.
"These girls have a lot of heart," Bogart said. "We'll get it together."
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.