Desert Vista's Kaylee Dietrich lifted a two-run homer with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning on Friday afternoon to give the Thunder a 5-3 victory over Sahuaro in the most compeititive of the four Elite 8 bracket games at the Desert Mountain Softball Invitational at Horizon Park.
The other three first round games Friday were claimed decisively. Hamilton topped Ironwood Ridge 14-4; Punahou, HI klnocked off Mountain Ridge, 8-4 and Pinnacle took down Shadow Ridge, 9-2. Saturday's Elite 8 bracket semis are set with Hamilton taking on Desert Vista and Pinnacle matching up with Punahou. Both games are set for 2 p.m. starts. The winners advance to the championship game at 4 p.m.
Desert Vista (12-2), the defending tournament champions, had to scuffle to advance to Saturday's semis. The Thunder never led until Dietrich's game-winning blast off Sahuaro freshman Kayley Johnson, who pitched an exceptional game with the backing of outstanding defense. Johnson gave up six hits, walked one and fanned one in a rare start.
Sahuaro's defense kept Desert Vista on the short end of the scoreboard with a handful of fine catches by left fielder Ari Gomez in the first five innings. In the bottomof the eighth inning Sahuaro (11-5) threw out the potential winning run twice -- first a throw from second baseman Danielle Jamieson to the plate followed by a relay from Gomez to shortstop Ashley Bradford to catcher Bella Goerke to cut down the second.
The bulk of Sahuaro's offense came in the first inning - a pair of solo home runs. Lauren Wedman opened the game with a homer to center and one out later Bradford ripped on to left. After that Desert Vista starter and winning pitcher Jackie Traughber gave up four hits the rest of the way. Desert Vista's Tyra Craig homered in the bottom of the third to cut Sahuar's lead to 2-1.
While Traughber kept Desert Vista close, it used the only walk by Johnson and Sahuaro's only error to even the score at 2 in the bottom of the seventh. Tajiah Ellison's sacrifice fly forced extra innings.
Sahuaro took its final lead at 3-2 in the top of the ninth with the international tie-breaker in effect. A two-out error by the Thunder scored Gomez from third.
Desert Vista came back to tie 3-3 in ninth as Kiara Kennedy sacrificed the runner at second to third and Jill Navarro followed with an RBI single to left. Three pitches later Dietrich finished it.
PUNAHOU HI 8, MOUNTAIN RIDGE 5: Payton Alsobrooks hit a three-run homer in the top of the first inning, but the Mountain Lions (8-6) surrendered five in the bottom of the frame and dropped a decision to the Buffanblu.
Punahou's Bailey Akimseu answered Alsobrooks blast with a three-run shot of her own in the bottom of the first that put Punahou (17-6-1) ahead to stay. Jolie Fujita added a two-run single in the fourth to extend the lead to 8-4.
PINNACLE 9, SHADOW RIDGE 2: The Pioneers scored seven runs in the first two innings and coasted to victory over the Stallions (10-4).
Marissa Schuld homered twice and and knocked in four runs for Pinnacle. Schuld has five home runs and 17 RBI in five tournament games. CC Cook did the work in the circle, allowing four hits, one earned run and struck out five over five innings.
HAMILTON 14, IRONWOOD RIDGE 4: Nikki Gonzales and Kylee Saunders combined to drive in seven runs -- Saunders RBI with a three-run homer - as the Huskies (13-3) knocked off the Nighthawks (14-3).
Gonzales, Macy Simmons and Abby Anderson had three hits apiece for Hamilton. Annika Baez had two hits and two RBI for Ironwood Ridge.
SATURDAY MARCH 18 SCHEDULE (All at Horizon Park)
8 a.m. - Millennium vs. Centennial; Queen Creek vs. Highland. 10 a.m. -- Millennium-Centennial winner vs. Queen Creek-Highland winner; Millennium-Centennial loser vs. Queen Creek-Highland loser.
Winner's semifinals -- 8 a.m. -- Campo Verde vs. Chandler; Red Mountain vs. Corona del Sol. Losers' bracket semifinals -- 10 am. -- Basha vs. Horizon; Chaparral vs. Desert Mountain. Noon -- 4 games -- 9th-place, 11th-place; 13th place and 15th-place.
Winners' semifinals -- 2 p.m. -- Pinnacle vs. Punahou HI; Desert Vista vs. Hamilton. Loser's semifinals -- Shadow Ridge vs. Mountain Ridge; Sahuaro vs. Ironwood Ridge. 4 p.m. -- Title game -- Pinnacle-Punahou HI winner vs. Hamilton-Desert Vista winner. 4 pm. -- 3rd-place, 5th-place and 7th-place games