Softball: Small ball helps 4A Bradshaw Mtn., 6A Xavier Prep prevail

May 4, 2019 by Les Willsey, AZPreps365

Bradshaw Mountain pitcher Caitlynn Neal pitched the Bears to a 1-0 elimination-game victory over Boston Butte in the 4A state softball tournament. (AzPreps365 photo)

It was quite likely fans watching Bradshaw Mountain and Poston Butte play their 4A softball elimination game Saturday afternoon were resigned to sticking around for a long time.

The pitchers -- Bradshaw Mountain junior Caitlynn Neal and Poston Butte senior Lindsay Lopez -- were locked in and neither team had come close to scoring as the bottom of the seventh arrived and the game hadn't reached the 90-minute mark yet.

Neal was one of those expecting to return to the circle in the top of the eighth.

"I was ready for another one," Neal said, who lost a no-hit bid after yielding a two-out, infield hit by Lopez in the top of the seventh. "I'm glad, though, I didn't have to go out afterall."

That's because Bradshaw Mountain coach Sharon Haese decided to do some bunting with her team up in the last of the seventh. It took just two bunts -- two very good ones - and the Bears conjured up the game's only run for a 1-0 triumph at the Rose Mofford Complex.

Haese had her 4-5-6 hitters coming to bat against Lopez, who to that point had allowed three singles, no walks and posted nine strikeouts. Those three Bradshaw Mountain batters -- Jacie Hambrick, Kirsten Schmidt and Yesenia Gomez were a collective 0 for 6 with six strikeouts.

Those tough stat lines were forgotten quickly as Hambrick bunted for a hit allowing the catcher no play at first. Schmidt followed with a bunt toward third and beat the throw that caromed off the second baseman's glove into short right field.

Aggressive base running by Hambrick not only brought her to third, but she didn't hesitate and was waved home by Haese in the coach's box and beat the relay to home plate for the run and win.

"We had to of our top four bunters coming up, so went with that," Haese said. "We'd been making outs so we went for a different approach. Those were two good bunts and the error got us the run...."

"Their pitcher was outstanding as well. Pitched a great game. We needed to come back after the rough one we had the other day (14-4 loss Thursday to Canyon del Oro). The playoffs are all about mindset. We had a good mindset today, and Caitlynn led us with great pitching."

How good was Neal? Well, she had a perfect game through 5 1/3 innings before issuing a walk to Alyssa Brizuela. She struck out the side that inning and did the same in the seventh around Lopez's infield hit. That gave her a strikeout total of 14 for the game.

"We knew we had to play better than we did against CDO," Neal said. "CDO had some good pitchers, too, but we had trouble on defense and they hit the ball pretty well. Our defense was solid this time."

Bradshaw Mountain (33-2) gets a few days off before coming back for another elimination game on Thursday at 6:30 at Rose Mofford. The Bears will face the loser of Tuesday's Mingus-Salpointe game. Poston Butte, coached by Rob Westover, saw its season end with a 23-4 record. The Broncos won their first 21 games. Three of their losses were by one run.

#4 XAVIER PREP 2, #9 CHAPARRAL 0: Riley Flynn pitched a one-hitter and started the game-deciding rally in the fifth inning with the first of her two hits as the Gators eliminated the Firebirds from the 6A state tournament at Rose Mofford Complex.

Xavier (17-4) advances to another elimination game on Wednesday and will take on the loser of Tuesday's winner's bracket game between Red Mountain and Sandra Day O'Connor at 6:30 at Rose Mofford. Chaparral finished its season 18-12.

Flynn broke up counterpart Sachi Sakai's no-hit bid opening the bottom of the fifth with a single to left.

Xavier opted to bunt with the next two batters. Sydney Johnson moved Flynn to second with a sacrifice and Elliott Smith then dumped a bunt down the third baseline fielded cleanly but the throw was high and sailed into right field allowing Flynn to score. A Meghan Schouten double was next plating Smith with the game's only other run.

The only hit Flynn allowed was a one-out single in the third by Allie Humburg. Flynn walked four and struck out seven. Three of the walks came in the first three innings. Chaparral had a runner in scoring position in each of the first and third innings, but two strikeouts from Flynn ended the first and fly out to center capped the third. It was Flynn's second shutout of Chaparral this season. She prevailed 11-0 on March 5.