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Joy not tears for Queen Creek's seniors

Queen Creek doesn’t want to let its seniors down.

The seniors have been the driving force in the late season run the team is on. Win one more game and the seniors will reach a state championship game, the destination they have so long sought since enrolling at the school.

Queen Creek won’t need Google maps to finds its way to Friday’s game. It’ll return to Rose Mofford Sports Complex, where Queen Creek will play the same team, Sahuaro, it defeated 6-3 Thursday in an elimination game.

“We don’t want to make our seniors cry,” third-year Queen Creek coach Stephanie Mejia said. “We want to make it all the way. That’s been our goal. The seniors have led the whole way, and the players have followed.”

The seniors are shortstop Maci Richardson, infielder/outfielder Brittaney Benavidez, infielder Bailey Kuehl and catcher Kierstin Denning.

They helped their team jump out to an early 5-0 lead, and then held on for the victory behind junior pitcher Julia Heitz and their defense. Benavidez and Denning knocked in three of Queen Creek’s first runs.

Sahuaro, trailing 5-1, left nine players on base, including three in the third inning, when Heitz struck out a batter looking with an inside pitch to end the inning.

“She (Heitz) is a big-time player and loves the pressure,” Mejia said. “She loves it all. This is where she wants to be. She’s been wanting to be here since she was a freshman.”

But a Queen Creek infield error led to two runs for Sahuaro with two outs in the fourth.

Trailing 5-3 and the momentum on its side, Sahuaro was ready to strike again, but right fielder Kaylee Joyce said not on my watch when a run was ready to cross the plate for Sahuaro in the fifth inning.

Joyce threw out the runner at home and then caught a line drive to disappoint Sahuaro in the fifth.

“She (Joyce) is one of our most improved players,” Mejia said. “She’s the type of kid that has the mindset that they are not going to score on her.”

Queen Creek left the bases full in the sixth inning but not before Savannah Morales, one of six sophomores on the team, added an insurance run with an RBI single to right. Morales, Queen Creek’s leadoff hitter, went 4 for 4 with three RBI’s.

Heitz took care of the rest, ending the game with her sixth strikeout. Sahuaro’s (26-10) Jasmin Lopez and Lauren Wedman each had two hits.

Queen Creek (23-13) is the lowest remaining seed, No. 10, in the 5A Conference state tournament.

But it has won 11 of its past 13 games.

“We don’t want it to end,” Benavidez said.

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