Ray completed a season of domination over rival Superior, but this one wasn't nearly as easy. Still, a state title is a state title.
Tara Lorona's fielder's choice grounder in the fifth inning Monday night was the difference in a great pitchers's duel giving Ray a 1-0 victory over Superior in the 1A softball championship game at ASU's Farrington Stadium.
Ray (23-3) repeated as small-school champ as sophomore pitcher Daniella Hinojos fought through a couple jams to edge equally impressive counterpart Superior's junior Alicia Arriola. In three previous meetings -- all won in routs by Ray -- Superior (17-6) struggled. The Panthers made the Bearcats earn the win and the title. Ray returned seven starters from last year's title team
"It was a big surprise this was low scoring," Ray coach Curt Cook said. "We didn't get some timely hits we got the first couple of times. Hats off to Superior. They came ready to play and really battled us. Both teams put all their marbles on the table."
Hinojos limited Superior to four hits, walked three and struck out five. She worked out of jams in the fourth and fifth and after getting the 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth was in danger of allowing Superior to even the score.
A sharply struck triple to right field by Superior's Lindsay Ketron put the tying run 60 feet away with one out. Although Hinojos didn't strike out many, she got the second out via K. The inning ended two pitchers later on a ground out to short. She retired Superior in order in the seventh to set off the victory celebrationg in short order.
Arriola easily hurled the best game of the four she threw against Ray (12-2, 10-4 and 14-5 losses). Arriola scattered seven hits, issued one walk and struck out nine. She pitched out of scrapes in the second and fourth, but couldn't post a zero in the fifth when Lorona's grounder to second produced the run as the throw home for the lead runner was late.