Peoria Sunrise Mountain pitcher Taylor Nowlin erases ghosts of past championship

Peoria Sunrise Mountain pitcher Taylor Nowlin erases ghosts of past championship

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Peoria Sunrise Mountain pitcher Taylor Nowlin erases ghosts of past championship

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One year ago, Peoria Sunrise Mountain pitcher Taylor Nowlin had one of the worst nights of her life.

She gave up the game-winning two-run homer in the eighth inning of Oro Valley Canyon Del Oro’s 11-9 victory over Sunrise Mountain in the Division II state championship game.

“It was real sad for awhile,” Nowlin said. “I kept blaming myself as the pitcher.”

Nowlin turned that defeat into a distant memory by pitching a complete-game 7-0 victory over Oro Valley Ironwood Ridge on Monday in the Division II title game. She struck out 12, allowed just two hits and when the last out was secure, found herself buried underneath her teammates on the mound.

A little dirt never tasted so good.

“It’s better now,” Nowlin said with a wide smile. “I knew we’d have a good season this year, and we did.”

Good doesn’t begin to describe what Sunrise Mountain accomplished. It outscored its opponents 320-40 in winning its fourth state title since 2006 (the others came in 2008 and 2009). Sunrise Mountain wasn’t even challenged in the postseason, winning its four games by a 21-1 margin.

“These girls have worked so hard,” coach Jody Pruitt said. “It’s not about individuals. It’s about a team. They’ve done such a great job worrying about each other.”

Teenagers are blessed with short memories, so Nowlin and her teammates were able to forget last year’s heartache as this season began. But the loss did motivate them.

“We really wanted to get at it this year,” senior Danae King said. “This was our year. We had no intention of losing. We wanted to win and we did.”

Nowlin made sure of it, although the beginning of the game looked like a repeat of last season. Ironwood Ridge’s first two runners got on base, and Sunrise Mountain was staring at a significant deficit before it broke a sweat.

“I needed to calm down,” Nowlin said. “I was so excited.”

Nowlin settled her nerves and proceeded to strike out the next three hitters. From then on, Sunrise Mountain dominated, scoring once in the first inning and twice in the second to essentially put the game away. Nowlin, meanwhile, was filthy, using her screwball to so befuddle Ironwood Ridge that it didn’t have another base runner until the sixth inning.

Pruitt believed the experience of pitching in the state-championship game last year helped Nowlin conquer her nerves on Monday.

“It’s a big platform,” Pruitt said. “Some of those nerves … all the girls came into it a little calmer and not so wound up.”

When Sunrise Mountain extended its lead to 5-0 in the fourth inning all that was left to determine was the final score and how many times Nowlin would be hit when she was at the plate.

She got plunked her first two at-bats. The second time she stared at Ironwood Ridge pitcher Emily Robinson as she walked toward first base. An unhappy Pruitt engaged the home-plate umpire in a spirited conversation, but afterward said, “I’m sure the ball got away from (Robinson). Taylor likes to crowd the plate.”

As Sunrise Mountain received the state championship trophy from Arizona Interscholastic Association Executive Director Harold Slemmer, Nowlin was off to the side doing a television interview.

“Who’s talking to me?” she asked before the interview began.

After 12 strikeouts and a state championship, that was the wrong tagline.

Everyone was talking about her.

Reach Bordow at scott.bordow@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-7996. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/sBordow.

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