Tucson Desert Christian softball coach Mark Harting says he’s a fatalist.
His team had to win the final three regular-season games needed to even reach the playoffs. Thursday, it was his No. 22-seeded Eagles’ unlikely 9-2 elimination of No. 11-seeded Chandler Valley Christian in the first round of the Division IV playoffs at Rose Mofford Sports Complex.
Increasingly, Desert Christian has defied the odds with only 10 players, just nine of whom were healthy enough to play Thursday.
“It’s fate. There’s no luck about it,” Harting said. “I believe in the girls, and they believe in themselves. It’s a belief system of taking opportunities offered to you and making the most of them.”
The win was the fourth straight for Desert Christian, which didn’t sneak into the playoffs until beating Tucson Palo Verde, Tucson St. Augustine and defending state champion Tucson Pusch Ridge on consecutive days last week.
Next up is No. 6-seeded Phoenix Christian at 4 p.m. Friday, where Desert Christian will try to surpass its 8-1 elimination last year to Salt River and replicate consecutive championships in the late 1990s.
“These girls are just working hard and getting it done,” Harting said. “They’ve done so much with so little.”
Armed with only two seniors, Desert Christian dominated a Valley Christian squad with 60 percent more players and three times as many seniors. Desert Christian (17-9) generated four runs in the third inning and three in the fifth and led 6-0, before Valley Christian (16-7) pulled within 6-2 in the fourth.
Sarah Chavez led Desert Christian with two doubles, two singles and an RBI, and also used the word “fate” afterward.
“A lot of people didn’t expect this (last two weeks),” she said, “but I knew we could do this if we all played the way we can.”
Lexi Rorrer, whose three-run double gave Desert Christian its final margin in the fifth, shares Chavez’ high expectations, despite thin ranks.
“(My hit) was great reassurance,” she said. “Some teams have come back against us, and we didn’t want that to happen again.”
Valley Christian was led by Stephanie Ware, who had a double and a single, and Larae Hunt, who chipped in a pair of singles. But Valley Christian couldn’t recover once Desert Christian’s 1-0 lead turned to 5-0 with three hits and an error in the third.