The pressure mounts as each round progresses in the Division I state softball tournament, and pitchers can often feel isolated in the circle when they run into trouble.
It’s a good thing, then, that Desert Ridge boasts a freshman hurler who loves the spotlight.
Left-hander Bailey Klitzke continually escaped jams on Wednesday night to lead No. 10 Desert Ridge to a 2-1 victory over No. 2 Vail Cienega in the first round of the double-elimination portion of the state tournament at Rose Mofford Sports Complex.
Klitzke allowed allowed two baserunners in each of the first three innings and had only one clean inning overall, but still finished with the complete game victory. She stranded nine runners, six of whom were in scoring position.
Klitzke said she never felt nervous despite all the eyes trained on her in the tense situations.
“This is my stage,” she said. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
The Jaguars struck first on an RBI single from Ashtyn Blakeman in the third inning which scored Alexis Paffumi. Desert Ridge had runners on second and third with nobody out in that frame, but had to settle for the 1-0 lead following three consecutive groundouts.
Cienega tied it up on a one-out double by Destinee Williams in the fourth inning but left two runners on base.
The Jaguars got the eventual game-winning run on a sacrifice fly by Chryse Hausenfluck in the fifth inning after Jackie Hernandez and Blakeman led off with back-to-back singles and Alyssa Sanchez sacrificed them to second and third.
Bailey Pavelich led off the sixth inning with a double for Cienega but didn’t move, and Klitzke stranded a runner on second base in the seventh with a game-ending strikeout of Bobcats clean-up hitter Makena Brawley.
Klitzke gave up nine hits and walked a pair but struck out eight to help get out of jams.
“Bailey works hard,” Desert Ridge coach Jen Broderick said. “She never gives up. That’s what keeps her in the game.”
Blakeman finished 3-for-4 with an RBI, while Hernandez and Klitzke had a pair of hits apiece.
The Jaguars will face No. 6 Red Mountain on Monday at 6:30 p.m. at Rose Mofford in a winners’ bracket showdown.