Deer Valley’s Lauren Haeger may get all the press, but second baseman Beanie Johnson reminded everyone in attendance there are 13 other players on the Skyhawks softball squad.
The senior second baseman broke a scoreless game in the top of the seventh with a 2-run home run off Mountain Ridge pitcher Syndey Gaffin in a 2-1 win. The win also gave Deer Valley its third 5A-II Northwest Region title in four years.
“It nice to win the region,” said Skyhawk softball coach Carl Bakemeier. “At the beginning of the season you set goals. We have one down and now we go forward to the next one. But we have to take it one day at a time, one game at a time and go out there and take care of business.”
Deer Valley pitcher Lauren Haeger and Gaffin did what was expected of a pair of staff aces, keep the hitters off balance and limit the number of base runners. Gaffin allowed six hits and struck out nine while Haeger limited the Mountain Lions to three hits and struck out 15.
Skyhawk pinch hitter Robyn Rall opened the seventh with a high chopper to second, which forced Mountain Ridge second baseman Danielle Reynolds to wait on the bounce. That gave Rall enough time to reach first. Johnson then drove a 2-and-2 pitch over the left field wall.
Freshman Alexandra Wuerger led off the bottom of the seventh with a double down the left field line. A walk and an error loaded the bases and sophomore Rhyeca Riley knocked in Wuerger on a ground out to second.
With the winning run in scoring position, Haeger struck out the next two hitters to nail down the win.
“We like to make it exciting, don’t we,” Bakemeier said.
While the Mountain Lions fell a run short, their coach was pleased with how well they battled in the seventh.
“That was obviously the best pitching we’ll face all year,” said Mountain Ridge coach Michele Markham. “We have to make adjustments sooner. But we fought all the way through. In the bottom of the seventh, we get a hit from a freshman and we bunted the ball when we needed to and did what we could to get into position to win the game.”
Both squads had opportunities to jump on the scoreboard but were done in by strong defense.
With one out in the top of the fifth, catcher Rachel Gates hit a single up the middle and third baseman Dana Cruickshank followed with another base hit to center. Maddie Handy snagged the single and threw to third where Gates was called safe, and on the throw Cruickshank tried for second but Corrin Green fired to Reynolds to get the Skyhawk junior. Gaffin then struck out right fielder Haley Spillman to get out of the inning.
“We just need to do a better job executing,” Bakemeier said. “I’m not overly concerned with our offense. We’ll talk it over during the next two days before the state tournament begins and work on our timely hitting in practice.”
In the bottom of the inning, Wuerger led off with a walk and moved to third when Gates misplayed a bunt by shortstop Ashley Soos. After a strike out, Riley laid down a squeeze bunt but Haeger fielded the ball quickly and fed Gates who tagged Wuerger. The Skyhawk catcher got the ball back to Haeger who was alerted that Soos was off the bag at third. She fired the ball to Cruickshank who got Soos leaning the wrong way.
It was the Skyhawks second-straight 1-run game in two days. Haeger blanked Phoenix Goldwater Tuesday, 1-0, and hit a two-out game-winning home run.
The game was scheduled for Monday, but was postponed to Wednesday after one of the umpires had car trouble and failed to show.
The 5A-I and 5A-II state tournaments open Saturday. The brackets will likely be announced Thursday. Mountain Ridge ended the day ranked No. 5 in the most recent 5A-I power rankings while Deer Valley sits in the same spot in 5A-II.