It was a week ago tonight at Surprise Stadium that I saw my pick for the top individual performance in the second half of the high school sports season.
Senior right-handed pitcher Tyler Fallwell had an unreal outing for Palo Verde’s baseball team, striking out 11 and giving up just two hits through eighth scoreless innings against Fountain Hills in the Division III state semifinals.
Fallwell, who finished the season 9-0, surely could have gone eight more innings but he didn’t have to as Palo Verde won 1-0 when senior Zach Redding scored on a bases-loaded walk in the bottom half of the eighth to send the Titans to the state championship game for the first time.
Less than 24 hours later, Fallwell came in for a one-out save and needed just four pitches to secure Palo Verde’s 5-4 title-clinching win over Phoenix Northwest Christian
“I could have thrown 500 pitches yesterday, but I felt no pain today because my adrenaline was pumping,” Fallwell told me after Saturday’s title game.
Since Jan. 1, no one from Southern Arizona has put on a show like Fallwell did last Friday night, but here are five other athletes with memorable performances in the past five months (listed in alphabetical order):
Athlete bio: Clay was a junior, 6-foot power forward on Cienega’s girls basketball team.
Date and location: Feb. 27 at Jobing.com Arena in Glendale.
The details: Clay had her best game of the season at the perfect time, the Division II state semifinals. She scored 21 points, went 9 for 10 from the free-throw line and pulled in 15 rebounds to help Cienega to a 57-49 win over Scottsdale Saguaro, the defending state champion. Although the Bobcats lost in the final, they very well could be back there next winter.
Athlete bio: Denson, a UA football signee, was a 6-foot-1-inch senior guard on the Salpointe Catholic boys basketball team.
Date and location: Jan. 18 at McKale Center.
The details: Seven weeks to the day after he led the Lancers to their first football state championship just down the street, Denson left his mark at McKale Center during the MLK Classic.
He drilled five three-pointers and totaled a game-high 28 points as Salpointe blew past Sahuaro 63-49 in the nightcap. Denson also scored three touchdowns to lead the Lancers to a 46-20 win over Scottsdale Chaparral on Nov. 29 of last year at Arizona Stadium.
Athlete bio: Echols was a 182-pound senior on the Sabino wrestling team.
Date and location: Feb. 15 at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.
The details: Echols capped a 42-0 season in grand fashion with a 15-3 major decision in the Division III state finals to become Sabino’s first state champion since 2000. He was one of four undefeated state champions from Southern Arizona and signed with Utah Valley University last month.
Athlete bio: Robinson was a senior pitcher on the Ironwood Ridge softball team.
Date and location: May 19 at Farrington Softball Stadium in Tempe.
The details: Having been in the state final twice before and not winning, Robinson made sure the third time was a charm. The four-year player capped off an incredible run through the Division II state playoffs by striking out four and giving up five hits over seven innings as I-Ridge beat Canyon del Oro 2-1.
Robinson pitched all 37 innings for the Nighthawks in the state tournament, including 11 against Tucson High in the second round.
Athlete bio: Villarreal was a junior distance runner on the Rio Rico boys track and field team.
Date and location: May 10 at Mesa Community College.
The details: While celebrating his 17th birthday, Villarreal won the Division III boys 800- and 1,600-meter runs, and anchored the 1,600 relay team to a second-place finish on the final day of the state championship meet to help the Hawks capture their first team title since 2003.
He also helped the 3,200 relay team win a gold medal the night before and was the cross country state runner-up in the fall. Get familiar with the name for next year.