Never a doubt.
So said the victors, a Red Mountain softball team which, within the biggest classification of schools in Arizona softball history, has now gone where only the Lions had gone before: From a three-peat to a four-score.
Too much Bre Macha and too much hitting for No. 14 seed Chaparral to handle, and No. 6 Red Mountain's big lead early held up to launch yet another celebration in the Lions' 9-5 win in the Division I state championship game on Monday night at Arizona State's Farrington Stadium.
Smaller-enrollment schools in the past - including Chaparral in the mid-to-late 1990s - have won four consecutive state titles. But not at this level, and not against an Arizona softball landscape which is becoming bigger and better every spring for the past decade.
"We've done something that's never been done before," junior catcher Jordan Beck said. "How awesome is that?"
Juggernauts for practically the entire tournament (Red Mountain outscored opponents 39-9 in five tournament games played), the Lions were staked to a 2-0 lead in the first inning courtesy of another postseason home run by Beck, who has a rich history of spotlight hits in three years of championships (it was the second one she's hit off Chaparral pitcher Dallas McBride this postseason, both of which went opposite field).
The swing-for-all was on, as the Lions' barrage of singles up the middle and opposite-field coupled with walks led to a four-run third inning and two more runs in the fourth. Then No. 8 hitter Savannah Kirkpatrick launched a solo home run to left field in the fifth.
At that point, it was 9-1, and despite a resilient effort from Chaparral to come back late during what's been a postseason full of Firebird fortitude - on and off the field - Macha is a three-time state championship winner on the mound.
Behind her, Alyssa Fernandez, the Lions' leadoff hitter (nine home runs this season), made two big plays defensively and Marian Ruf had three hits and three RBIs on the night.
"They hit 1-through-9 and that means you can't take a batter off," Chaparral coach Stefanie Ewing said. "You fall behind by that much and you're looking up at Goliath,"
The Firebirds, which has had injuries from start to finish this season among its key contributors, coaches injuries, coaches quit, and players lose loved ones all during this state tournament run, had one more surge in them.
An RBI double by Lauren La Terra got Chaparral on the board in the fourth. An attempt at a second run on an infield hit was thrown out at home by Red Mountain second baseman by Alyssa Fernandez's relay to Beck.
McBride and the defense settled in behind her for the middle innings, the Firebirds finally found something in the sixth.
Chaparral scored four runs - more than Red Mountain had allowed in the previous four tournament games combined - on five hits, a walk and an error. La Terra came up big again with another RBI hit, as did Natalie Cravens on a flare to center that eventually bounced out of the glove and was ruled a hit.
Ashtyn Coleman and Blakely Koziol also had key hits in the inning, and it was 9-5 with second and third and two out when a chopper to third led to an easy play at the plate for Red Mountain to end Chaparral's big inning.
"We started to swing and adjust, a little too late," Ewing said.
"None," Macha said of worry when things grew tight. "My team has my back.
That was a process cultivated and wavered at times during the season. The Lions' have had excellent pitching (sometimes two ace-caliber hurlers) for the better part of these deep tournament runs which began in 2006. But with graduations the "rabbits and rhinos" mantra of its hitting became a roster of mostly "rhinos" this year.
Individual agendas and issues had to be nipped in the bud early in the season, the defense was a mess for a period in late March and runners were being left all over the bases.
"As a team we had some doubts," Macha said. "It wasn't anything close to a 'for sure' thing."
The only doubts are now left to others in the quest for consecutive championship No. 5, because Chaparral returns a significant portion of its roster (including McBride, Alana Anderson, Cravens and La Terra, Red Mountain loses two significant senior contributors this season in TJ Beeson and Jordan Thomas.
"It's never easy to get here let alone win here," Beck said. "We'll come back and try again to make history again next year."
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or (480) 898-6576.