For West Valley Preps
This was the best season for the Shadow Ridge softball team. They entered the 5A state tournament as the No. 2 seed and grabbed the program’s first playoff win early taking the play-in game over No. 15 Mesquite 7-5 and their second in the first round against No. 10 Queen Creek, beating them 4-3.
No. 3 Tucson Sahuaro was up next and after 11 innings the Stallions lost 4-2.
Given a chance for a rematch with both teams’ seasons on the line, Queen Creek jumped on the Stallions early and stayed in command for a 12-5 win at Rose Mofford Sports Complex Tuesday.
“It was a tough loss the other night after 11, but our hitting wasn’t on and things just didn’t go in our favor, but we battled back to tonight’s game,” Shadow Ridge Coach Vicki Bejarano said.
Coach Bejarano said prior to the start of the game she told the team she wasn’t sure what was going on with them, saying they were either in the zone or not even here.
“And Queen Creek came out right away and started hammering the ball and doing everything they needed to do,” she said. “They came out ready to to play and did a great job of that.”
Savannah Morales, Brittaney Benavidez, Allysa Hunt and Jaylei Brechler all scored runs for the Bulldogs in the first inning. They added two more in the second to go up 6-0 on three hits and an error by the Stallions. Morales singled to right field and stole second to put herself into scoring position.
Benavidez hit a RBI single into right field and she earned second on a throwing error and another run scored on a RBI by the Bulldogs.
Queen Creek head coach Stephanie Mejia said after losing to Shadow Ridge earlier in the tournament, they had to put that loss behind them and use what they learned from it.
“We saw their pitchers in that first game and worked and made adjustments so our hitters would be successful against them tonight,” coach Mejia said.
Shadow Ridge added three runs of their own in the bottom of the second after a walk from Sophia Carroll, then Aris Carroll was safe at first on an error by the Bulldogs in right field. Cassidy Young picked up the runners on a three run homer over the left field fence to keep the Stallions alive.
But Queen Creek’s offense did not stop hitting. They scored five runs on five hits with some help from Shadow Ridge with two errors in the top of the fourth and led 11-3.
Shadow Ridge (27-7) rallied again in the bottom of the fifth inning with an infield single from Hayley Bejarano. Sophia Carroll hit a two-run homer over the left field fence to cut the Bulldogs lead 11-5, but Queen Creek added a final run in the top of the seventh to seal the win.
“Tonight Queen Creek made great plays and it didn’t matter where we hit it. And they had little things dropping in all over the field, but they executed and did what they had to do,” coach Bejarano said.
Queen Creek ended the game with 16 total hits, compared to Shadow Ridge who had six and left four stranded.
Coach Bejarano said every year the Stallions have improved and their focus has changed. She said the four years ago they just wanted to have a .500 season and then the second year they wanted to make state and then get to Rose Mofford.
“Each year we are building and just not accepting that this is okay just getting to Rose Mofford,” Coach Bejarano said. “It’s mentally building our athletes to where we are at now. It’s trying to get them past knowing what they are capable of and how strong they can be mentally and physically.”
She said losing this group of seniors will leave them big shoes to fill. Coach Bejarano said they’ve been great leaders and great examples to the program.
Marshall, Hayley Bejarano, Maya Lentz and Taya Brooks have been varsity players since day one, each starting at least part of all four years. Young played only this year after transferring from Paradise Honors but provided the Stallions another big bat and No. 2 pitcher.
“We do have younger players who understand the expectations and continue to grow for us,” Bejarano said. “Our unit can’t function without the entire team and we’re going to continue to build on that.”