Seton High School may be just a small, 3A Catholic school, but players and coaches of the Sentinels softball team were confident heading into games against a pair of 5A squads on Tuesday.
Unfortunately for Seton, the team couldn’t hang with the bigger schools, losing games against Dobson, 8-1, and Gilbert, 11-7, at Marcos de Niza High School in the Marcos de Niza-McClintock Tournament.
“I thought we could have played a little better,” Seton coach Jerry Mullin said.
Seton is the defending 3A state champ.
Before making the jump to 3A in 2000, the Sentinels won four straight 2A state championships from 1996-1999.
Mullin said that Seton was capable of beating Dobson and Gilbert, but said he is still able to take a lot of positives out of both games.
“I’ll take a loss against teams like this,” Mullin said.
“It helps us get better.”
Seton was 30-4 last season and had won its first three games this season before Tuesday.
According to Mullin, a lot of other small schools beside Seton are able to compete against 5A teams, even though the talent level in 5A is a lot deeper than in 3A.
“You probably face seven or eight good players on each team (at the 5A level),” he said. “At 3A, there are three or four good players and then it trails off.”
Sentinels catcher Shelby Davis took Tuesday’s losses a little bit harder than her coach.
“We played horrible,” she said. “We should be able to play at this level. I was expecting to win these games.”
Davis may have been hard on her team, but she agreed with her coach and said that playing 5A teams will help Seton in the long run.
“It makes us a lot stronger in region,” Davis said. “On 3A teams, not too many players are experienced.”
Against fellow 3A high schools, Davis said that it can be easy to lose focus at times during a game, and doing so against 5A teams can be a lot more costly.
“You always have to be on your toes,” she said. “It’s a lot quicker in 5A.”
The Sentinels were confident heading into their first game on Tuesday against Dobson, having beaten the Mustangs last season.
Seton trailed by one run in the fourth inning when Dobson shortstop Ashley Schroeder smacked a bases-clearing double down the left-field line to give her team a 5-1 lead.
Dobson added three more runs in the sixth inning.
Things continued to look grim at the start of Seton’s second game as Gilbert batted around in the top of the first inning and took a 6-0 lead before the Sentinels ever got to bat.
“You just hope that you can hang on and come back,” Mullin said.
Seton did that and put itself back in position to win by scoring three runs in the second inning to cut the lead in half.
Seton could have done even more damage, but Davis popped out with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Gilbert again pulled away from Seton by scoring four third-inning runs to increase its lead to 10-3, and once again, the Sentinels inched their way back with three runs in the fifth and trailed 10-6 heading into the final inning.
But there wasn't any comeback left in Seton.