Sunday was not a day of rest for Bre Macha.
As if arguably the hottest pitcher in the East Valley the past four weeks wasn't already rolling, Red Mountain's junior ace had a pitching lesson on Sunday night, re-kindled her riseball, and apparently raised her repertoire another notch.
Coming off what she called her best outing of the season in beating Desert Ridge on Monday, Macha nearly matched her wits again. She threw a two-hitter with nine strikeouts to beat rival-Mountain View, 2-0, on Wednesday night to send the Lions to an unprecedented fifth consecutive state championship game.
The sixth-seeded Lions will face the winner of Friday's Mountain View-Chaparral winner on Monday night at Arizona State.
Since two rough outings against Gilbert and Desert Ridge, respectively, to begin April, the junior ace has allowed two earned runs and struck out 91 batters in 57 innings.
"The riseball was really working," she said. "I got some jump on it since the pitching lesson."
Mountain View got one runner to second base all night, and while Red Mountain had five hits and four walks against Toros' ace Val Kaff (12 strikeouts), both schools were satisfied with their approach (though not necessarily execution) at the plate against two of the best pitchers in the state.
"The were up there swinging which is all you can ask," Mountain View coach Joe Goodman said. "She just made quality pitches."
A couple Mountain View miscues led to the scoring margin. TJ Beeson singled to right with one out in the third inning, and after Kaff struck out Macha, Jordan Beck roped a ball into center field.
Beeson went to third base, but Mountain View centerfielder Brittney Lindblom threw a strike to third base from near the center field fence. The ball beat Beeson but she was called safe.
Meanwhile, Beck was caught between first and second, and the Toros had her in a rundown, but the throw to second base was low and rolled away. Beeson then took off for home and was safe when the throw in sailed to the backstop for a wild 1-0 Red Mountain lead.
The Lions had chances in the second and fourth innings, but couldn't bunt runners into scoring position. But McKenzy Gutierrez opened the sixth with a single, and, with two outs, Alyssa Fernandez launched a ball to deep right field, but a leaping catch attempt two steps in front of the fence was missed and Gutierrez scored easily for the insurance run.
"Those two runs probably shouldn't have scored, but our defense, unlike other times when we crumbled, didn't," Goodman said.
That was plenty for Macha, although the Toros fared better in making contact against Macha than the Toros' two previous meetings this season (Sid Ryan missed an opposite field home run in the first by a couple feet and younger sister Kinsey Ryan hit two balls hard to the outfield for outs).
But while the Toros remained upbeat with at least one more game to play, the smile on Macha's face was wide enough to suggest Red Mountain's five consecutive appearances in the biggest game of the season wasn't lost on the part of this group of players, a few of which (especially Macha) played a big part in the previous two titles.
"There's so many other (teams) who fought their way all season to get here and didn't make it, so we cherish it," she said. "We still have a fight left to play."
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.