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Sunnyside’s Piñon shines in storied circle

Sunnyside starting pitcher Estela Piñon’s goal in life is to play softball for the University of Arizona.

Wednesday night she got a taste of that dream.

In the circle at UA’s Hillenbrand Stadium that has seen the likes of Jennie Finch, Alicia Hollowell and Taryne Mowatt, the Sunnyside sophomore put together a pitching performance that would rival the Wildcat legends.

Piñon pitched a complete game, three-hit shutout while striking out 17 Tucson High batters in a 10-0 win.

“I felt good and once my coach said that I was getting the mound, I had butterflies,” Piñon said. “I was like ‘Oh my God. I’m pitching where the UA plays.’ That was a very good experience.”

Piñon gave up a lead-off hit to Alexis Gallego in the bottom of the first inning then retired the next 11 hitters, including striking out seven in a row.

“That kid is phenomenal,” Tucson High coach Marcos Bejarano said. “I saw her in the offseason and I’m new to the softball scene and she’s tough. She’s throws that ball really well. She had our hitters guessing and throwing the rise and our kids were chasing it. She’s a good kid and she brings it.”

The Blue Devils (27-5) spotted Piñon a three-run lead after five innings, then opened the floodgates, scoring three runs in the sixth inning and four more in the seventh.

Meanwhile, Piñon stayed in that same groove so many others have through the years at Hillenbrand Stadium.

She struck out the side in the fifth inning. After a lead-off hit in the seventh, she fanned three in a row.

“When I told her about the start she looked at me with the eyes like, ‘I get to pitch at the UA stadium?’ And I said, ‘Yes,’ ” Sunnyside coach Pete Palomarez said.

Piñon improves to 7-3 and appears to have a bright future ahead of her at Sunnyside, the defending Class 5A Division II state champion.

“I think I’ll be back for another couple more years,” Palomarez said with a smile. “That almost assures me coming back for a couple more years with Stela around.”

Tucson High improved to 17-15 one year after a nine-win season.

The loss dropped the Badgers to the No. 17 spot in the Power Rankings, meaning they will not qualify for the 16-team 5A-I state playoffs, which begin Saturday.

After shuttling back and forth to Palo Verde Park all season while Tucson High’s home park at Cherry Field has been under construction, Bejarano wrote a letter to UA in December asking to play at Hillenbrand.

The university approved the game in January, but Bejarano kept the secret from his players until three weeks ago.

“I sat them down,” Bejarano said, “and told them, ‘Hey I have something to let you know. I know it’s been a tough season but coach set something up for you and you guys are going to be playing your final game at Hillenbrand Stadium.’ I actually had some of my kids cry because it was such a once and a lifetime deal for the kids.

“What a way to go out. Obviously the score doesn’t reflect what we did (this season) but those kids played hard all year and for those kids to finish up here at Hillenbrand, that’s something that they will never ever forget.”

St. Augustine 9, Green Fields 4: Freshman Jessica Brink became St. Augustine’s first player to hit a home run over the outfield fence at the team’s home park in the program’s five-year existence.

Brink was 2-for-2 at the plate with a walk and a hit by pitch while also picking up the complete-game pitching victory.

• • •

Salpointe softball coach Ted Farhat will assist Yavapai Community College and former Pima CC softball coach Stacy Iveson in coaching a collection of Arizona all-star players May 25 in Prescott against the U.S. Olympic team.

The game is part of the Olympic team’s “Bound 4 Beijing” tour.

Iveson and Farhat’s team will feature such former southern Arizona players as Ashley Monceaux (Flowing Wells/Pima CC) and Miriam Romero (Douglas/Pima CC).

– Citizen Staff Writer Geoff Grammer contributed to this article.

For more musings on high school sports, check out the Grammer School sports blog.

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