It took a black-and-blue kind of semifinal battle between Mountain View and Chaparral to set up an all-red-and-black championship game in the Division I girls softball state tournament.
With junior Dallas McBride dominating early both in the circle and at the plate in a 9-3 win for Chaparral Friday night at Rose Mofford Sports Complex, the 15th-seeded Firebirds will take on No. 6 Red Mountain Monday night at 7:45 p.m. at Arizona State's Farrington Stadium.
McBride, who came off medication to battle pneumonia on Thursday, carried a one-hitter through five innings in the field against the No.5 Toros, finishing with a complete game and 10 strikeouts. At the plate, McBride decided that, if they needed it, her teammates could take a night off, too, finishing 3-for-4 with two home runs, four RBIs, and a walk.
“The kid has just fought, and this team has been through so much. It’s just kind of like whatever happens, we’re like, 'OK, we’ll deal with this, too,'” Chaparral coach Stefanie Ewing said. “(McBride) does a great job of just staying composed and not letting a lot of stuff get to her. She’s just got that mindset of just 'I’m going to do this.'”
But McBride’s teammates certainly showed up, too, needling Toro standout pitcher Valerie Kaff for seven runs through the first four innings.
Kaff, who just a week earlier fanned 20 in a single game, didn’t have the senior sendoff she had envisioned. In addition to falling a game short of the title round, Kaff had a rough night with the ball in her hand, giving up those seven runs, 11 hits, and walking seven while striking out eight in six innings of work.
Kaff singled in the bottom of the sixth, but got shaken up while diving back to first base in a tag-up situation. After a huddle with coaches and teammates, Kaff picked herself up and – as her coach put it – just about refused to come out of the game.
“It was just an awkward slide – jammed the shoulder, (we’re) not sure,” Mountain View coach Joe Goodman said, adding that Kaff’s will to keep playing led to the prolonged discussion on whether she’d be relieved for a pinch runnger.
“I thought I was going to probably have to pick her up and carry her off the field. That’s what’s made her a special athlete. She’s that competitive, she wants the ball every chance she can have it.”
Added Ewing, despite sitting in the other dugout: “What I’m going to take most away from that game is how much fight Val Kaff has.
“I’ve never seen a high school kid just refuse to come out of a game like that,” she said. “That was awesome.”
Chaparral centerfielder and cleanup hitter Ashtyn Coleman was also dinged up in the same inning, covering a ton of real estate on a fly ball to right-center to make the catch, despite an awkward slide. Coleman came out of the game, and wasn’t walking without help from her teammates after the game, an ice bag wrapped around her knee.
Both injuries came during a wild half inning that saw Mountain View start to pick at the Firebirds’ lead. The Toros scored three, but couldn’t do anything after that.
“You know what, honest to goodness, up until the final out of the game, I’ve seen this team compete all year,” Goodman said. “I knew we weren’t going to go down without a fight, just too big a hole.”
Ewing praised McBride’s composer as a thrower, even during a difficult inning that saw the Toros nearly bat around.
Mountain View junior Sidney Ryan put Mountain View on the board with a solo shot in the top of the sixth. Sophomore Jami Wickerman was the only Toro with more than one hit.
“Dallas is a fighter. Sometimes she makes things a little crazy with hitting people and stuff like that, but she finds a way to get it done all the time,” Ewing said. “She wants to out there, it’s her moment, and she’s loving it.”
Against Kaff, one of the best pitchers in the state, the seventh, eighth, and ninth hitters in Chaparral’s lineup saw quite a bit of success, combining to go 6-for-10 with a pair of walks. That included sophomore Alexa Thorelle’s 3-for-4 outing.