PHOENIX — With a tune on her mind, Lexi Adelberg settled down enough in a big situation to put the Ironwood Ridge softball team one win from a return to the Division II state championship game.
Adelberg’s two-run single in the sixth broke a 2-2 tie to lift the fifth-seeded Nighthawks (26-7) over No. 1 Buckeye Verrado 4-2 on Monday night in a winner’s bracket game at Rose Mofford Sports Complex in Phoenix.
“I honestly went up there, sang a little song and just hit,” Adelberg said. “I sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.’ I know it sounds cheesy but it calms me down so …”
I-Ridge faces No. 7 Glendale Cactus on Wednesday night at Rose Mofford in a semifinal game, needing a win to advance to next Monday’s title game at ASU’s Farrington Softball Stadium.
The Nighthawks were chasing off-speed pitches from Verrado starter Morgan Brown but scratched out a run on Adelberg’s run-scoring single in the third. Reina Bondi later doubled and scored on Lexi Orth’s single in the fifth.
“She has an amazing change-up,” Adelberg said. “I saw the girls before me, I saw them see it.”
But in the sixth, with two outs, Lou Olson reached on an infield single, Merilee Miller was hit by a pitch and Bondi walked, setting up Adelberg’s at-bat.
She knocked a single up the middle to put I-Ridge ahead for good.
“I told them at the start of the season, you win with defense and pitching and that’s what we did today,” first-year coach Rich Alday said.
Starter Emily Robinson, who allowed a two-run homer in the fourth, settled down enough and got some help from her defense. One inning later, Olson caught a liner and doubled off a runner at second to end the frame.
Robinson allowed back-to-back singles in the seventh but Kelsey Buechler tracked down a foul ball for the second out and then went back to get the final out a few paces from the right-field fence.
Monday marked the second time in two years that I-Ridge got the better of Verrado in the playoffs. Last year, the Nighthawks eliminated the Vipers in the second round of the double-elimination portion of the tournament before going on to reach the finals.
No. 7 Glendale Cactus 5, No. 14 Marana 1: At Rose Mofford, the Tigers couldn’t rally from the Cobras’ five-run first inning and dropped into the loser’s bracket.
Marana (25-8) returns to Tucson for a meeting with Canyon del Oro today at 6:30 p.m. at Cherry Field.
Cactus took the lead after Marana made a pair of errors and gave up two home runs in the first. Starter Casey Cadenhead only allowed four hits the rest of the way but the Tigers couldn’t get a rally going.
In the fourth, after Maya Harper knocked in a run to cut the lead to 5-1, Marana had the bases loaded but did not score again.
“We talked about it, no matter what happens we belong here,” Marana coach George Corona said. “We get two chances and now it’s time to go down to the loser’s bracket and try to win some games down there.”