Oree Foster
Staff Writer, AZPreps365.com

3A Softball Conference Play-In: Window Rock edges Fountain Hills, 3-2

April 24, 2019 by Oree Foster, AZPreps365

Window Rock junior pitcher Rachael Smiley outdueled Fountain Hills sophomore hurler Sophia Buckley in the pitching cicle, as the Lady Scouts edged the Lady Falcons, 3-2, in the 3A Conference Play-In softball game in Fort Defiance on Wednesday afternoon.

Smiley struckout 13 batters, while silencing Fountain Hills' bats to four hits. Buckley fanned three Lady Scouts, while scattering four hits.

Smiley controlled the game from the first batter. Smiley fanned the first five batters she faced and struckout seven of the initial 10 batters through three innings.

Schools finishing ninth to 24th in the regular season final statewide power rankings, participated today in the 3A Conference Play-In ball games. The winners advance into the state tournament, which begins on Saturday with the state Sweet 16 at Rose Mofford Softball Complex in Phoenix. The state quarterfnal games are set for May 3, followed by the semifinals on May 4.

Window Rock is 25-wins, 6-losses and the Lady Scouts garnered the 3A North Regional Tournament championship.

Window Rock head coach Cynthia Smiley downplayed Rachael Smiley's pitching performance.

"She (Rachael Smiley) was in a slump," coach Smiley said.

Coach Smiley credited the Lady Scouts' defensive effort throughout the game.

"The key to our win was our defense," coach Smiley said. "Our offense was slow today. We got the win. The girls came together as a team. We played good defense. We move on. We are in the state tournament. We will find out who we play in the state tournament tomorrow."

Window Rock advances to the Sweet 16 of the state tournament. The Lady Scouts will play on Saturday in Phoenix at Rose Mofford Softball Complex in Phoenix. The Lady Scouts are the lone 3A North Region school remaining in the post season. Page Lady Sand Devils dropped a 16-3 decision to the Kingman Lady Bulldogs on Wednesday afternoon. The Chinle Lady Wildcats were ousted from the post season playoffs, losing 20-0, to Northwest Christian Crusaders on Wednesday afternoon.

Coach Smiley said the Lady Scouts played without three starters today, including twin sisters Halaya and Halia Shirley and Aliyah Freeman, and will not have their services on Saturday in the Sweet 16 of the state tournament in Phoenix.

Fountain Hills head coach Randy Bragg said he is proud of his young team.

"We have one senior on the team this year," Bragg said. "We have freshmen and sophomores on the team. They all played outstanding this year. After the game, I talked about what our off season workouts will be. We're excited about the future of our team."

Bragg said Window Rock pitcher Rachael Smiley kept Fountain Hills off balance for majority of the game.

"Window Rock's pitcher (Rachael Smiley) threw outstanding," Bragg said. "She started the game throwing outstanding. It wasn't until toward the end of the game, we got a triple. I tip my hat off to Window Rock's pitcher (Rachael Smiley)."

In top of the fourth inning, Foutain Hills' Gabbi Coughlin led off with a single into right centerfield. Sophia Buckley walked. Smiley struckout Olivia Swipiarski was called out on strikes. Gianna Barker walked. Rachael Smiley threw a wild pitch, allowing Couglin to score, before fanning Taylor Pace. Window Rock got out of the inning, when Zoey Lipps grounded out to end the inning.

Window Rock battled back in the bottom half of the fourth inning. Desiree Nelson bunted and reached first base on an error. Alexis Tsosie-Hood drove in Nelson on a hard hit into right centerfield. Tsosie-Hood was alert on the base path, after the base hit to score when the ball was misplayed.

Lady Scouts' Rachael Smiley ripped a triple into the right centerfield power alley. Window Rock's Alyisha Hale reached first base on a fielder's choice, scoring Rachael Smiley for a 3-1 lead.

Fountain Hills' Sydney Loyet cracked a triple down the left field line with one out in the seventh inning.

Loyet scored on Kimberly Hoyt's infield single. Window Rock hurler settled down to get Hoyt on a fielder's choice. With two outs, Rachael Smiley fanned Sophia Buckley to end the game.

Sydney Loyet, Kimberly Hoyt, Gabbi Coughlin and Taylor Pace all had one hit each for Fountain Hills.

Alexis Tsosie-Hood, Rachael Smiley, Alonna Lee and Chamique Bowman had one hit apiece for Window Rock.