As the game hinged on her shoulders in the bottom of the seventh, Peoria High’s Becca Pantoja stepped out of the batter’s box and looked around. It was clear she needed a moment to calm herself.
The count was 2-2. Phoenix Shadow Mountain was leading 3-2 and was just an out away from victory. The tying run was on third base, and Pantoja was feeling the pressure.
A base hit was all she needed to keep Peoria’s playoff hopes alive. But, when she saw the next pitch — straight up the middle — the small-framed sophomore, hardly known for her power at the plate, decided she was ready to put this one away.
“Right when I saw that pitch, I knew,” she said.
Pantoja hit a two-run walk-off over the left field fence that gave No. 14 Peoria a 4-3 victory over No. 19 Shadow Mountain in the first round of the Division II softball tournament at Peoria High School.
“It was amazing,” Peoria coach Bobby Pacheco said. “She’s a line-drive hitter, but when she wants to go yard, she can do it… she has the power to put it out. It doesn’t look like it — a little skinny girl like that, but she can put it out.”
Shadow Mountain led 2-1 going into the fifth inning when an RBI double by Jacie Lambert pushed the lead to 3-1.
Peoria was struggling to find an answer offensively.
“We had a lot of opportunities, “Pacheco said. “We were trying to put a couple hits together to bring those runs in and it wasn’t working.”
Finally, in the seventh inning, it seemed things were beginning to click. With bases loaded and no outs, Shianne Harwood flew out to deep center field. All three runners tagged up and attempted to advance but Paige Grubbe was thrown out at home giving Peoria its second out. Shadow Mountain, in a moment of confusion, failed to get the ball into the pitching circle and stop play and Peoria’s Cecilia Madrid, who had successfully made it to third base on the sac fly, ran home when no one was looking to cut the lead to one run. Pantoja then followed with the game-winning homer.
Peoria faces No. 3 Glendale Raymond S. Kellis in the second round Tuesday.