Centennial softball’s growth pays off in Chaparral upset

Centennial’s Caitlyn Swisher (#4) fields a ground ball Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Centennial High School in Peoria. (Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps)

Richard Smith
West Valley Preps

Nearly all of a young Centennial softball team that won a Division I playoff game last year returned for 2017.

So when the Coyotes started 3-14 and 1-5 in regular season games it was fair to wonder what was up with the Coyotes and their new head coach. The answer was in the circle.

Sophomore Sydnie Sahhar, the projected ace, was the announcer of Thursday’s game against Scottsdale Chaparral and has missed the season with a spine injury.  The new No. 1 starter only decided to play the week the season started and the No. 2 pitcher in the program just got back a week ago.

The healthier Coyotes showed progress this week though one-run losses to ranked Buckeye Verrado and Phoenix Arcadia teams did not change the record.

Thursday Centennial played another tight game against a team in 5A playoff position. But this time the Coyotes held on for a 4-3 win at home against Chaparral (11-6, 4-1 regular season).

“After we won this, I think we’re going to get momentum for the next couple games,” freshman infielder Aubrey Maya said.

She picked up hits and RBI in each of her first two at bats. The second hit, a triple to right center in the fourth inning, gave Centennial its first lead at 3-2.

Freshmen brought the home team’s offense to life. Marley Burd led off the inning with a double to left in her first plate appearance.

Maya drove her in and then scored the Coyotes’ fourth run with two outs. Sophomore catcher Makenzie Celaya dribbled a grounder for an RBI infield single when she was called safe at first over the protests of Firebirds coaches and fans.

“It feels extremely good. It’s a confidence booster for me and hopefully for Marley too. It shows that it doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman,” Maya said.

Freshmen Aryanna Garcia and Jaydin Gonzalez also start for what was already a young program. In contrast, first baseman Kaitlyn Mauser is the only senior on the Centennial roster.

With Sahhar out all season and sophomore Dren Meginnis only returning March 14 at the Desert Mountain tournament, the newcomers had to have a trial by fire.

“Not having Syd and Dren may have been a blessing because I had to play four freshman very early,” Centennial Coach Randy Kaye said.

Centennial’s Alanna Moran (#12) throws a pitch against Chaparral Thursday, March 23, 2017 at Centennial High School in Peoria. (Jacob Stanek/West Valley Preps)

Chaparral beat Centennial 3-1 in that Desert Mountain tournament and started the scoring in the bottom of the second inning Thursday. Junior Sammy Worth and sophomore Emma Meyer both singled with two outs and senior Taylor Canatelli doubled to plate both.

Junior pitcher Alanna Moran recovered to end the inning. The Firebirds scored again in the fifth as Canatelli reached on an error, went to second on a hit batter, stole third and came home on a throwing error.

Before the bats came alive in the fourth, the Coyotes chipped away at the early lead. Junior Caitlyn Swisher reached on a two-out error in the second inning, stole second and scored on Maya’s RBI single.

Celaya singled to lead off the bottom of the third and junior Emily White bunted for another single. A fielder’s choice sent Celaya to third and she scored the tying run on a throwing error.

The freshmen gave the Coyotes the lead and by the sixth inning, the home team was in preservation mode. Meginnis relieved Moran and walked senior Tatum Pretchel to start.

Pretchel stole second after a dropped ball on the tag and moved to third on a grounder. But the Coyotes tracked down a short fly ball by senior Rachel Boullion and caught Pretchel coming home, though the Chaparral contingent believed the tag missed her.

Meginnis teetered but survived again in the seventh, walking Worth and allowing a Meyer single to start the inning. But  a 1-5-3 double play reduced the threat and a ground ball out secured the upset.

With Sahara’s return uncertain, the pitching staff is rounding into form. Well known as the director of the local Firecrackers Club, Kaye represented a change in direction after six years of coaching from on-campus teacher Mike Repak.

Kaye said originally Morin was not planning to play with coach and player not knowing each other at all. A month into the season, Moran is pitching her best and Meginnis is providing a different style in relief.

“Alanna was not even going to play until two days before tryouts. It’s taken her at least until this point for her to get her legs. She’s been great,” Coach Kaye said. “Dre twisted an ankle before our first scrimmage game and came back at the Desert Mountain tournament. She’s given us a great change of pace.”


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