It's No. 1 Basha vs. No. 2 Red Mountain for the Division I softball state championship on Monday night at 7:30 p.m. at ASU's Farrington Stadium.
This means the power point system works, right?
A year's worth of results doesn't constitute whether a system works or not, but in large part it did in 2012. Still, we'll let that dog sleep for now.
This is, for many, boring. At least one of these two programs have been to the big-school championship game for five consecutive seasons, and six of the past seven dating back to 2006. These two have met twice in championship games, with Red Mountain winning a wild affair (is there any other kind the Lions participate in?) in 2011, and Basha winning in 2009.
But the cry for new blood won't be answered this year, and neither Basha nor Red Mountain should apologize (ever) for that. What's the cliche about who you have to beat to be the best?
For periods of time this season, Xavier was the hottest team in Div. I. So, too, was Horizon, Gilbert, Glendale Mountain Ridge, Perry, Pinnacle, etc.
But Red Mountain and Basha were never not viewed as having at least a 50-50 chance of making the title game, and, thanks to the power points (ha!) and the schools' cooperation in the win-loss department, they ended up on opposite sides of the bracket.
So here we go, and fitting of a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup, this one could be another classic.
(Let's disregard these teams' only meeting this year, an essentially meaningless game at the end of the Desert Mountain tournament in March in which everyone played and the Nos. 1-through-5 goals was that nobody get hurt).
Coach: Scott Hoffmeyer
How they got here: Def. #16 Perry 5-4; Def. #9 Centennial 11-0; Lost to #5 Mountain Ridge 6-0; Def. #6 Horizon 5-3; Def. #5 Mountain Ridge 7-6.
Players to watch: P Kailey Regester (26-3, 1.62 ERA, 194 K; .465, 11 HR, 47 RBI, 37 runs); IF Kylie Shull (.432, 9 HR, 47 RBI, 35 runs); C Hailey Siroky (.351, 6 HR, 33 RBI, 20 runs); IF Hailey Maher (.398, 3 HR, 26 RBI, 50 runs); OF Courtney Hiruko (.407, 40 runs)
Outlook: In addition to Regester being an ace with her ability to spot the corner and throw a riseball, the defense behind her has held up nicely throughout this tournament (except for the first tournament meeting with Mountain Ridge, but nothing showed up well for Basha in that loss). The Bears do have a tendency to make things interesting once they get a lead, even late in games, but have held on just enough. Winning close games in a tournament atmosphere is a big deal, and Basha has done that (Mtn. Ridge, Horizon, Perry). So, too, is playing well, and the Bears have one of the hottest hitters this postseason in catcher Hailee Siroky (3 HR, 16 RBI since the final regular season game April 25). It's nearly impossible to get through Hiruko-Regester-Shull-Siroky part of the lineup three or four times unscathed. Don't sleep on Theresa Asta, who hasn't put up the numbers she did as a junior in 2011, but can change a game with one swing. How will the change of venue (Arizona State's Farrington Stadium) have an effect on players sights, and, especially, nerves and adrenaline?
Red Mountain Lions
Coach: Rich Hamilton
How they got here: Def. #15 Mtn. View 9-2; Def. #7 Cibola 10-0; Def. #6 Horizon 2-1; Def. #5 Mtn. Ridge 4-3.
Players to watch: P Siera Phillips (13-0, 1.40 ERA, 105 K; .453, 43 RBI, 43 runs); P/IF Bre Macha (13-2, 1.19 ERA, 119 K; .440, 10 HR, 47 RBI, 26 runs); IF Haley Culley (.462, 25 RBI, 50 runs, 9 SB); OF Payton Kornfeind (.557, 21 RBI, 50 runs, 16 SB); IF Jordan Beck (.451, 10 HR, 29 RBI); IF Taylor Beeson (.434, 21 RBI, 24 runs).
Outlook: Red Mountain is looking to become the first "big school" in Arizona history to win three consecutive state championships. It's been done a few times at the lower levels: Tucson Canyon del Oro (4A Division I) from 2007-2009; Chaparral (4A) from 1995-1998; Seton Catholic (3A) from 1996-1999 and 2002-2005; Winkelman Hayden (2A) 1986-1989 and Joseph City (1A) from 2000-2003 and 2008-2010. The joks this postseason has been that Red Mountain has done something it's never done before by staying out of the loser's bracket, but unlike everyone else, now the Lions could lose once and it'd end the season. Phillips figures to start in the circle tonight, but Bre Macha pitched well in winning her start against Horizon and came in to shut down Mountain Ridge for three innings in the semifinals which allowed Red Mountain a chance at a reasonable comeback (which the Lions pulled off). With Culley (who's playing in her fourth high school softball championship game) and Kornfeind at the top, RM has two of the best table-setters in the state as either bunters or swingers with speed. Similar to Basha, the lineup is deep, and despite an advantage of having two top starting pitchers, most figure the teams can still put up 3-4-5 runs each. In addition to the same questions about anxiety and adrenaline Basha might face, will the five days off between Wednesday's semifinal victory and this game help or hurt Red Mountain? The practice time was most beneficial, especially in a season where practices were rare, but it's never easy to gauge until game time.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.