Three-time defending champion Mesa Red Mountain is playing in the Division I softball tournament title game and Peoria Sunrise Mountain is playing in its second straight Division II championship game. In other news, you can read.
This was expected of two of the better teams in the state. But what wasn’t expected, are the teams they’ll be facing Monday at ASU’s Farrington Stadium in Tempe. Scottsdale Chaparral (Division I) and Tucson Ironwood Ride (Division II) surprised many in advancing this far into their respective tournaments.
“I’m sitting here thinking ‘Are we really here right now? Are we really here right now?’,” Scottsdale Chaparral coach Stefanie Ewing said after her team beat Mesa Mountain View last week in the Division I tournament elimination final. Chaparral, the 14th seed, has been winning with a solid pitcher in junior Dallas McBride and patience and power at the plate.
“The kids have bought into the game plan of waiting for their pitch, drive it and it’s really worked,” Ewing said. “Whenever you face these big-time pitchers who can shut you down, it’s really hard to get out of that mindset. You just get caught up in them.”
Chaparral will go up against another one of those pitchers in Red Mountain junior Breana Macha, who has stuck out 194 hitters in 144 innings pitched. Sixth-seeded Red Mountain has also outscored its tournament opponents 30-4, including a 5-1 win over Chaparral. “I’m really proud of this team for finally coming together and playing well at the right time,” Red Mountain coach Rich Hamilton said. “Did we play the greatest softball all year long? No. But we’re playing well right now and we have one more game to play. One more game to play.”
In Division II, top-seeded Sunrise Mountain has allowed just one run in four tournament games, shutting out its last three opponents. No. 4 Ironwood Ridge, which has scored 21 runs in its last three wins, hopes to break that streak.
“This is our best balanced team of speed and power,” said Ironwood Ridge coach Randy Anway, who is in his 11th season and is retiring after the game. “Our two leadoff hitters are lighting fast.”
Ironwood Ridge, which reached the state title game in 2011 and 2008 under Anway, graduated players that produced most of its runs last year and yet finds itself playing for a championship anyway. Anyway said not to let what he team lost fool you. This current team is actually the best he’s ever had.
“They’re just young,” he said. “We have one senior and we have two juniors on the field. The rest are sophomores and freshmen. They’re very talented. They’re going to be very good.”