Pusch Ridge had little difficulty beating Catalina 21-0 on Thursday night but the Lions still have a difficult road ahead before the 3A playoffs begin. Ranked No. 14 coming into the game against the Trojans, Pusch Ridge (6-2 in the South Region) is battling to preserve a home game in the play-in bracket but the Lions will have to finish in the top 16 to do so.
The 3A Conference play-in bracket will involve teams ranked 9 to 24 with teams 9-16 hosting on Wednesday, Apr. 26. The eight winners from the play-in bracket will advance to the 16-team championship bracket, slated to begin on Apr. 29.
No. 8 Empire (6-2) is hoping to stay in the top eight to avoid the play-in bracket and No. 13 Sabino (8-2) is in the same position as Pusch Ridge heading down the stretch. No. 16 Sahuarita (6-3) rounds out the teams from Southern Arizona currently inline for a playoff spot.
No. 34 Catalina (2-5) will not make the playoffs this year but the Trojans have won more games this year than the last five years combined.
“That’s a little discouraging,” Catalina standout Eileen Lujan explained. “But we have to think about the next person up. I want to leave this school better than what I found it. I want to leave a legacy.”
Lujan is the Most Valuable Player no one has ever heard about. Lujan plays volleyball, basketball and softball for Catalina and she has done it for four years now. That’s 12 seasons and 12 letters. One might see that kind of commitment at a small religious school but not at a midsize public school. In the world of club sports, it’s practically unheard of.
“I had a lot of fun doing it and I got to meet a lot of people playing all the sports,” Lujan added. “I’m the student body Vice President and it helps me interact with all the kids at school. Plus, playing volleyball and softball keeps me in shape for basketball.”
The Trojans were limited to two hits against Pusch Ridge (Briana Salt and Lilly Heritage) but the Lions brought their bats with several players recording multiple hits.
From the top, Claire Van Stelle went 4-for-4 with two triples, a double and two RBI; Alison Smith went 3-4; Jessica Giacoma went 2-4 with a triple, double and four RBI; Victoria Graham had an RBI triple; Maddi Johnson had two hits; Abby McGowan went 2-4 with a double; Aimee Perrotti had two RBI; Jordan Jones had two RBI and Ashley Perdue had an RBI single.
Jones, Perdue and Giacoma all say action in the circle for Pusch Ridge while Kiana Garcia went the distance for Catalina. Garcia gave up five earned runs in the 21-0 loss.
The Lions have seven seniors on their roster including Perdue.
“Things are going good this year,” Perdue said. “We are having a lot of success and I guess it comes from our skill but we also have great relationships on the team. We are playing hard.”
Pusch Ridge won a state championship in 2012 and finished in the second round in Division IV last year.