If Monday’s 6-0 win against Avondale Westview was Centennial softball’s appetizer, Tuesday was the Coyotes main dish.
Down 4-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Centennial scored five runs over the seventh and eighth innings to win the Desert West Region showdown, 6-5.
Both squads entered the series undefeated in the region. The two losses pushed the Knights into second, tied with Millennium, whom they beat once this season.
Meanwhile, the Coyotes control their own destiny. With four region games remaining, Centennial (19-6, 8-0) has a win against each Desert West team.
“This was definitely the bigger win (of the two),” said Centennial coach Mike Repak. “It was a gutty performance. In the end the girls put good at bats together and went after their pitch.
It’s a signature win for a coach who is trying to make his mark on a club that is the defending 5A-II state champion. The junior varsity coach for the past 10 years, Repak took the job when Bartt Underwood retired as a teacher.
The administration wants its varsity coaches to be on campus, so it didn’t rehire Underwood.
That left Repak to fill some pretty big shoes.
“I feel like I’m under a microscope coaching in a big fish bowl,” Repak said. “I’m just trying to do the best by these kids. But, yeah, those are some big shoes to fill, but we’re coming together as a team now. We lost Paige Tonz and Mo Montemayor from that year’s squad but we’ve done pretty well to fill gaps out of the JV and freshman teams.”
It was a three-year junior varsity player right fielder Katie Benford who provided the spark Centennial needed in the seventh. Down to their final two outs, the Coyotes pushed across three runs on two hits, a walk and a hit batter to tie the game at four and sending it to extra innings, with Benford scoring the tying run.
Westview (16-8, 5-2) reclaimed the lead in the top of eighth as second baseman Kylie Andrus led off with a walk and came around to score on right fielder Anna Cordova’s RBI double to left. Catcher Sianna Gomez followed with a base hit to center that appeared deep enough to score Cordova. However, Centennial center fielder Abby Beasley fielded the ball cleanly and came up firing, hitting catcher Makaylah Miller on a line who tagged Cordova to end the inning.
Beasley led off the Coyote eighth with a single to right and moved to third on first baseman Taylor Underwood’s single to right. Left fielder Jazzmin Garcia, who began the rally in the seventh when she was hit in the mask with a pitch, followed with a double to the gap in right field scoring Beasley. Miller was intentionally walked to load the bases and Benford hit a sharp grounder to shortstop Chelsie Goddard. The Knight sophomore went home with the ball but Gomez couldn’t handle the throw and Sydney Kamarata, running for Underwood slid with the winning run.
“The girls who have been with the program showed their experience today,” Repak said. “But you also had other girls stepping up like Katie Benford who was a three-year junior varsity player before being moved up to the varsity level this year. She had some big at bats today and was real clutch. The entire team played with a lot of heart and emotion today.”
“I was a little nervous coming to the plate,” Benford said. “But it was a good nervous. I was just trying to bounce one so the fielders would have to come up on it and it worked.”
Freshman pitcher Paige Mills started her second straight game and was in and out of trouble throughout. She allowed five runs on 13 hits but with strong defense behind her, stranded 10 Knight runners.
Tuesday’s performance followed a complete game two-hit shutout at Westview.
“Paige has really matured throughout the season,” Repak said. “She can become a top tier pitcher because she has a strong work ethic and a good support system around her.”
The Knights struck first, pushing two across in the third against the freshman hurler. Westview used a one-out walk, an RBI double by Cordova and an RBI single by Gomez. They tacked on another in the fourth, with Cordova driving in her second of three RBIs on the day with a single up the middle, knocking in Andrus.
Meanwhile, Westview pitcher Brae Roy kept Centennial’s offense in check. Coming into Tuesday’s game, the Coyotes were hitting .498 as a team but managed three hits through six innings against Roy.
They made the most of their opportunities. Beasley led off the fourth with a double to the gap in right field. Underwood moved her to third on a sacrifice and Garcia laced an RBI single to center.
Centennial’s tough week continues Wednesday as it plays host to Pinnacle (19-4) and travels to Desert Ridge (12-13) Friday.