Entering the AIA Division IV state tournament as the No. 24 seed, the Salt River High School varsity softball team had their work cut out for them. However, their ranking was simply a formality of the tournament. They were paired with No. 9 seeded St. Augustine in the first round and put together a solid offense stint, as they earned the win 9-5 on May 2. They advanced to the second round and took on Desert Christian.
The Lady Eagles took the 2-1 lead over Desert Christian in the top of the third inning, scoring one run on two hits with one runner left on base. Salt River pitcher Marissa Flores played a solid game for the Eagles. In the bottom of the third inning, Ashley Harper slapped a single over the Eagles Rachel Cooper’s head at third base, earning a single. But Emily Cooper grounded out to Celia Padilla-Hicks who was playing short stop for the second out. Harper left first base early on a hit-and-run and was called out by the umpire for the second out of the inning. Brianna Manjarre grounded out to Flores.
Flores started out at the plate in the top of the fourth inning for Salt River. She walked and stole second base. The next batter hit a RBI double to improve the score to 3-1 in favor of Salt River. The next batter reached first base on fielder’s choice, after Desert Christian pursued the out at third base. The Eagles added a single to right-center field and Blossom Wood singled on an error, followed by another Eagle crossing home plate to increase their lead 4-1. Padilla-Hicks singled on an error by Desert Christian, as well as Rachel Cooper and Wood scored (5-1). Kishan Cooper hit earned two RBI with a triple, scoring to additional runs and taking the 7-1 lead.
In the top of the sixth inning, the Eagles started with a pop-out by Wood. Rachel Cooper was hit by a pitch and was awarded first base. She stole second base and then third base on pass balls, before eventually crossing home to improve their 8-1 lead. Kishan Cooper grounded out to second for the final out of the inning.
Flores took down the next three batters she faced and the Lady Eagles were back in the dugout. But in the top of the seventh inning, they left two runners stranded on base. The Eagles headed back onto the field in hopes of shutting out Desert Christian in their last at-bats. Flores walked the first batter, but sent the next two into the dugout on strikes outs. The win over Desert Christian allowed the Eagles to move on to face the No. 1 seeded Pusch Ridge.
Lady Eagles Fall to Pusch Ridge
Scoring one run on the No. 1 seeded team in the state tournament was s start, but there were still several innings to be played. The Lady Eagles began the game with a single by Rachel Cooper to right field. Padilla-Hicks singled to center field and with aggressive, heads-up base-running by Rachel Cooper, she made her way to third base. A sacrifice-fly to left-center field by Kishan Cooper, earned her a RBI as Rachel Cooper scored the first run for the Eagles (1-0). Two walks by the next batters put runners on base, but a solid double play by Pusch Ridge put Salt River back inside the dugout.
Five batters scored two runs for the Lions. Flores started in the pitcher’s circle for the Eagles and after battling with Rachel Majors, she forced the batter into a pop-fly for the first out of the inning. Sarah Majors singled to left field, followed by a RBI double to left field from Rachel Ward, to tie the game 1-1. Corrie Ward hit a RBI ground out to first base for the second out of the game, but the Lions took the 2-1 lead. The Lady Eagles ended the inning giving up two runs on two hits.
Salt River was unable to produce in the second inning and gave up four runs improve the Lions lead 6-1. The Lady Eagles put together two singles in the top of the third inning, but were unable to move the runners.
The Lions scored seven runs in the bottom of the third inning, leaving the Eagles only two at-bats to make up the difference. Salt River was unable to add any runs, falling to Pusch Ridge after five innings, by a score of 13-1.
The Lady Eagles ended their season 19-14 overall and 6-5 in league play. Earlier in the season, head coach Lynnann Yazzie said this year’s team is much improved. Although Salt River competed with very little practice as a team, at the start of the season, the Lady Eagles were still successful.
“We have such a diverse team full of girls who can play multiple positions, which allows us to move girls around depending on our competition,” she said. “Last year, we had nine girls to end the season and moving players around was a lot tougher.”
Yazzie said the team was fully supportive of one another from the start of the season and built upon each other’s strengths. This year, coaches were commenting on the talent on this year’s team and the Lady Eagles continued to prove their talents throughout the season.