Pitching, hitting and speed. Cienega appears to have everything clicking at this stage of the season and much of that progress was on display Tuesday at Salpointe when the Bobcats beat the Lancers 7-4 in an important nonconference game.
Cienega is now 11-2 overall and 6-0 in power-ranking games with the two losses coming to schools from California at the Tournament of Champions held in Bullhead City two weeks ago. Salpointe fell to 4-5 on the year but the Lancers remain even at 2-2 in power-ranking games.
Salpointe took an early lead after Arizona State commit Yannira Acuña was hit-by-pitch to start off the bottom of the first and Malaea Baray-Rocha followed with a single to drive her in. Cienega sophomore Lia Dominguez held firm and limited the Lancers to only two hits until she was replaced by freshman Mariah Lopez in the fifth.
Meanwhile, Tori Brown tied things up with a solo shot to lead off the top of the second. Shae Bushey followed with a walk, Blaise Biringer doubled her to third and Savannah McLaughlin hit a ground-out RBI to score Bushey to put Cienega up 2-0.
The home run was the sixth of the season for Brown. A Regis University commit, the senior infielder hit .451 in her sophomore year in 2015, the same year Cienega beat Salpointe to win the Division II state championship.
“We have some good pitching and everyone can hit in our lineup,” Brown said on what she saw in her team this year. “We are also really fast.”
The Bobcats have 50 stolen bases as a team to lead the 5A Conference by nine. The closest Tucson-area 5A team is Marana and the Tigers have 22 on the year.
Cienega plated three more runs in the top of the fifth and another in the sixth to take a 7-1 lead but senior catcher Izzy Lopez went opposite field in the bottom of the sixth to cut the lead down to 7-2. Lopez signed with South Mountain in November.
“We are working really hard and we are getting better in practice,” Lopez said. “I think we are going to surprise some people this year.”
Acuña took the circle in the sixth inning to replace Aleena Alexander and she shutdown five of the six batters she faced the rest of the way, giving up a walk in the top of the seventh. The Lancers made things interesting in the bottom of the seventh after Giselle Muñoz drew a one-out walk and Diana Montano and Zofia Corral followed with back-to-back singles.
Corral scored Muñoz on her hit and Lopez hit another shot to the fence but it fell short of another home run but the sacrifice scored Montano to make it 7-4. The comeback stalled and Cienega won it by that score.
The Bobcats will take a week off and will host Sahuaro (14-5) next Tuesday, Mar. 28 and Salpointe will host Empire (13-4-1) on Wednesday night, Mar. 22.