Oree Foster
Staff Writer, AZPreps365.com

1A State Tournament Softball: Freshman Gabriella Simpson fans 13 to lift St. Michael

April 29, 2019 by Oree Foster, AZPreps365

St. Michael Lady Cardinals freshman lefthanded pitcher Gabriella Simpson was invincible throughout seven innings of work in the pitching circle.

Simpson struckout 13 batters to help lift St. Michael to a 5-2 victory over Hayden Lady Lobos in the first round of the 1A softball state tournament at Rose Mofford Softball Complex in Phoenix.

St. Michael head coach Karen Tom said Simpson couldn't find the strike zone early and had to battle from behind in the count to strikeout batters.

Simpson held Hayden scoreless through six innings.

According to Tom, in the seventh inning, Hayden scored two unearned runs on an error on St. Michael second sacker, Kalynn Smith. who attempted to contest an interference call, when the ball hit the foot of Leticia Cruz, as she was running from first base to second base.

In the final moments of the game in the seventh inning, the bases were loaded with two outs. Simpson struck out Meiyah Stacy, ending the game.

St. Michael, a small private Catholic school on the Navajo Nation, earned it third state tournament berth in school history. In its first state tournament appearance, St. Michael was ranked 16th and was eliminated in the first round of the state tournament. Last year, St. Michael was ranked eighth and was eliminated in the second round.

St. Michael improved its state ranking this year, nailing down fifth this year. Tom said the Lady Cardinals are shooting for another state tournament advancement this year.

St. Michael, 23-5 overall, advance to the state tournament quarterfinals, facing the Williams Vikings, 16-12 overall, this Friday at 6 p.m. (Mountain Standard Time) at Rose Mofford Softball Complex in Phoenix.

During the first two innings, the two teams couldn't muster any hits and runs.

"The first two innings, (it) took our offense time to adjust," Tom said. "Everything our batters hit was in the air. Hayden's defense caught everything."

In the third inning, St. Michael broke the ice, connecting with sharp grounders between Hayden's infielders with base hits and putting runners on base.

St. Michael scored a pair of runs, when Smith belted a two-run double. Jessica Terry followed with a run scoring two-bagger for a 3-0 Lady Cardinal lead.

Sophomore Maya Ross cracked a double in the fourth inning. Simpson helped her own self at the plate, hitting a run scoring double, driving home Ross for a 4-0 lead.

St. Michael's Terry reached first base on a single. Smith followed with a single, putting runners on second and first base.

Lady Cardinal Terry stole third base. On the play, Hayden committed a throwing error, allowing Terry to score a run.

St. Michael's Kalynn Smith drove in two runs with a double. Gabriella Simpson recorded a run scoring double. Jessica Terry's double drove in a run. Kalani Wilson, Maya Ross and Natalia Goldtooth all had a double for the Lady Cardinals.