For most hitters a mistake pitch is something up and over the plate.
Then again Mountain View catcher Sidney Ryan isn’t your typical hitter.
After striking out on a riseball above the letters in the first inning, the No. 5-seeded Toros’ top power hitter came back with a vengeance in the third inning.
On a 1-2 pitch from Glendale Mountain Ridge starter Sai Foley that was clearly below the knees, Ryan reached out and sliced a two-run shot over the center field fence to break open the scoreless contest.
Behind Ryan’s no doubter, seven scoreless innings from senior ace Valerie Kaff and an array of defensive gems in the field, the Toros knocked off the No. 1-seeded Mountain Lions 5-0 in Monday night’s Division I state tournament quarterfinal at the Rose Mofford softball complex.
With Monday’s effort, Goodman's team moves on to play Red Mountain on Wednesday night in the winner’s bracket semifinal. The Toros are 0-2 this season against their long-time rivals.
“I was looking for something high or to get walked,” said Ryan, who now 13 home runs in 2013. “[Foley] left it there and made a mistake, I just took advantage of it.”
Mountain View (27-6) tacked on three more runs in the fourth inning, highlighted by a two-run single from Brittney Lindblom. But Ryan’s advantageous swing proved to be the turning point in the Toros’ five-run victory.
“Sidney Ryan is just an all-around great hitter,” Mountain View coach Joe Goodman said. “You’re not going to fool her with the same pitches or ideas twice. She hit that ball with two strikes and just sat back. I’m surprised they threw anything near the plate.”
While Ryan handled the offensive load with her bat, Kaff had no problem keeping up her end of the bargain in the circle.
Five days removed from her 20-strikeout performance against Desert Vista, the Mountain View senior was once again on the top of her game. With a relatively tight strike zone, the Michigan State-commit opted to pitch to contact and let her defense in on the action.
In all, the Toros' ace gave up just four hits over seven innings, with eight strikeouts and nine ground-ball outs.
“Obviously if you give Valerie a lead, she’s good at what she does,” said Goodman. “But against a team like that or really any team left in the tournament, you never want to sit back. You have to keep scoring. I thought we did a pretty good job of that.
“I was afraid after (Ryan's) two-run home run, we were going to sit back. But to come back and score three more runs was big. I thought we showed a lot of grit and it was a good all-around team effort.”
For Mountain Ridge, the quarterfinals loss was more or less defined by the little things. A pitch here or a string of hits there, and the outcome could have been different.
But while Mountain Ridge (31-3) found it's on the wrong side of the score for the first time since March 19, the Lions remain optimistic.
“There were so many closes plays at first, but we were just a step behind from busting it open,” coach Michelle Markham said. “I think we had a couple of mental things that we can adjust on, but next time it would be a very different showing.
“It just didn’t bounce our way today. We hit the ball hard and just couldn’t find the holes. Then when we did, we just couldn’t string them together.”
Although their first defeat in 21 games seemed to come at an inopportune time, Markham noted that the Mountain Lions will be ready to play Tuesday night in an elimination game against No. 14-seeded Chaparral.
“Nobody ever wants to lose don’t get me wrong, but in a way it might be a blessing,” said Markham. “I’d rather lose now than lose later. It gives us a chance to focus and reload. A couple things happened (Monday) that we’ve gotten away with before, but now we have a reminder of how important it is to look at the little things.
“They are already fired up. They’re right where they should be. There wasn’t any pouting, because they are ready go.”