Pitcher contributes to squad’s 16-hit burst
By the time the scoreboard clock at the University of Arizona’s Hillenbrand Stadium flipped to 7:04 p.m., just 34 minutes into the Class 4A Division I softball semifinal game between Cienega and Catalina Foothills, the game appeared over.
So much so that the outfield sprinklers came on.
With top-seeded Cienega up 7-1 in the bottom of the second inning, the resulting five-minute delay in play merely put off the inevitable Thursday night.
Despite No. 12 Foothills’ scrappy effort, Cienega won 11-4 to advance to Saturday’s championship game against Canyon del Oro.
“I expected us to come out strong on offense and I know we were ready,” said junior pitcher Alexa Cash. “I know we’re ready to face anybody.”
The win sets up a highly-anticipated championship showdown at Hillenbrand between No. 1 Cienega (27-6) and No. 2 CDO (32-2) at 6 p.m.
CDO, the two-time defending state champion ranked No. 5 in nation by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association, lost to Cienega on March 30, 1-0.
It is Cienega’s first softball title game. CDO has played in seven, winning five, including the past two.
Despite Cienega earning the tournament’s No. 1 seed, the Bobcats know that as long as the nation’s No. 1-ranked player, Kenzie Fowler, is pitching for CDO, the Dorados are the favorite.
“Everybody is an underdog with CDO,” Tatham said. “We have much respect for CDO . . . but we don’t care who the opponent is. We always talk about if we play our game, we can get the job done. We’ve done it before and we can do it again.”
Cash had an uncharacteristically average pitching performance, but she still did most of the damage for the Bobcats on Thursday.
Cash allowed a season-high eight hits, but didn’t walk anyone and struck out 10.
And Cash had three of her team’s 16 hits: an RBI double in the first inning, a solo home run over the left field wall in the second and an RBI single in the fourth.
Cienega led 11-1 at one stage.
“I just came out trying to do what was best for the team and get us a bigger lead,” Cash said.
Foothills put a first-inning scare into Cienega when a leadoff double by Elise Samoy-Alvarado set up Stephanie Carramusa’s RBI single to center field, giving the upset-minded Falcons a 1-0 lead.
“I wouldn’t be a coach if my heart didn’t go in my throat,” said Tatham of Foothills’ early lead, the first time Cienega had trailed this postseason.
The threat was quickly erased in the bottom of the first when Cienega batted around and took a 6-1 lead off six hits and a pair of Foothills’ errors.
Trailing 11-1 with two outs in the top of the fifth, Carramusa extended the game, and avoided the five-inning, 10-run mercy rule, with a two-RBI single. Foothills scored again later in the inning to pull within 11-4, a more respectable score than the 20-2 loss it suffered to Cienega on April 2.
“Coming off those two (playoff upset) wins to get us to this point, the girls were flying high and we just ran into a buzz saw those first couple innings,” said Foothills coach Mark Brunenkant.
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4A-I SOFTBALL TITLE GAME
Who: No. 1 Cienega (27-6) vs. No. 2 Canyon del Oro (32-2)
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: UA’s Hillenbrand Stadium