Cipriano Chayrez
ASU Student Journalist

5A Softball: Centennial advances to state title game after defeating Empire

May 13, 2019 by Cipriano Chayrez, Arizona State University

Hailey Galvez celebrates game-winning run with her teammates. (Photo by Cipriano Chayrez/AZPreps365)

It took a victory in an elimination semifinal against the Empire Ravens, but the Coyotes are headed back to a state championship game for the first time since 2010.

Nine years ago, Centennial won their one and only state title against Sunnyside, 5-1.

On Monday, they have a chance to claim their second against the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks.

Series recap: Game 1

When Centennial and Empire faced off for the first time at Rose Mofford Sports Complex in the third round of the 5A playoffs, the Coyotes handedly won the game.

Sydnie Sahhar got the start in the circle for Centennial and earned an impressive win with a 11-1 triumph.

In just five innings of work, Sahhar recorded eight strikeouts, allowed three hits, one run and one walk.

On the offensive side for the Coyotes, seniors Dren Meginnis and Hailey Galvez stood out in the contest.

Meginnis went 1-for-3 with her lone hit being a two-run double and managed to cross home plate as well.

Galvez finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs while also scoring a run herself.

In the first inning alone, Centennial's offense put up six runs. The Coyotes kept the pressure on the Ravens by scoring four more in the third and officially sealed the victory by the run rule after scoring once more in the fifth.

After receiving its first loss in the playoffs, Empire needed to defeat Sunnyside in the elimination bracket if the team wanted to continue the postseason run. The Ravens did just that with a 2-1 win over the Blue Devils, setting up a rematch with Centennial in the semifinals.

Game 2:

Centennial just needed to defeat Empire one more time in order to head to the state title game, but Empire wasn't going down so easy.

Through the first three innings, both teams were held scoreless until junior Reagan Grossi hit a two-run double in the top of the fourth, sending Aly Nava and Odalys Garcia-Peret in to score.

Sophomore pitcher Vanessa Brink played in all seven innings for the Ravens, allowing only three hits, didn't give up a single run or walk, and finished with four strikeouts.

It was a much different story for Centennial in this 2-0 shutout loss

Since it was the Coyotes' first loss in the double-elimination tournament, the rubber match between Empire and Centennial decided which team would go on to Tempe to play for a state championship.

Game 3:

The third and final game between the two schools was played just 30 minutes after the previous matchup, yet Centennial came into the contest as if they had a week's worth of preparation.

It looked like it was going to be another tightly-contested game, until Centennial took advantage of a costly Empire decision in the bottom of the third.

The bases were loaded for Centennial after Empire intentionally walked first baseman Hailey Galvez, leaving shortstop Dren Meginnis, the reigning 5A Conference Offensive Player of the Year, up to bat.

On the second pitch of her at-bat, Meginnis sent the ball flying over center field and out of the park for a grand slam. The slam was Meginnis's 20th home run of the year.

Before the inning was over, the Coyotes sent one more runner to cross home plate in putting up five runs on six hits.

The offense wouldn't stop there and scored four more runs in the fourth and needed just one more score to win by the mercy rule.

Later in the bottom of the sixth, Galvez went back up to bat, and instead of letting her walk like before, Empire gave her a chance to bat this time around.

With no runners on base, Galvez hit a line drive to deep right field, allowing her to triple and once again brought Meginnis up to bat.

With a trip to Tempe on the line, Meginnis then hit a sacrifice fly to center, allowing Galvez to slide home for the team's 10th unanswered score.

Centennial's 10-0 shutout of Empire guaranteed the Coyotes would get a crack at the 5A state championship after losing in the semifinals the year prior.

Meginnis finished 3-for-5 at the plate with a grand slam, six RBIs and one run scored.

Meanwhile, Galvez went 3-for-6 with two triples, two RBIs and three runs scored, including the game-winning run.

Following the emotional victory, the two senior leaders spoke on what it felt like being one step closer to their ultimate goal.

"It's so much better than I expected," Galvez said. "We can only be excited as we could because we've never experienced this, but we're so excited to be in this position."

"We've been waiting for this moment [since] last year, the year before that. We know we can do it and we're finally there, so we're pumped," Meginnis said.

Look ahead to state

No. 2 Centennial will face No. 3 Ironwood Ridge in the 5A state championship game following the Nighthawks' 8-1 and 14-4 semifinal victories over the previously undefeated No. 5 Horizon Huskies.

Centennial coach Randy Kaye said when it comes to playing for state, his team just has to keep doing the things that got them there in the first place.

"I think we just got to stay the course, and keep doing what we're doing," Kaye said. "Let our pitching lead us and our defense lead us. Just continue to look for stuff that we can hit, pitches that we can hit and play our game. I think that we're going to give ourselves a shot if we do that."

First pitch for the 5A state title game is scheduled for 5:30 on Monday at Farrington stadium in Tempe.