There are not too many softball players more prepared to grind out a close playoff win than the Cienega senior class.
With a résumé that includes a 2009 second-place finish at state and a 2008 quarterfinal appearance, the Bobcats discovered the hard way what it takes to win in the state tourney.
That experience paid off in the quarterfinals of the 4A-I state playoffs Tuesday when No. 1 Cienega beat No. 8 Sahuaro 3-1 behind another stellar pitching performance by Alexa Cash.
"We wouldn't be where we are today without the experience of being in the playoffs the last two years," said coach Eric Tatham.
Cash had 14 strikeouts, and the Cienega bats came alive at the right moments as the Bobcats advanced to a Thursday semifinal date against No. 4 Sabino at Cherry Field at 7:30 p.m.
Cienega took a 1-0 lead in the second when Cash laced a double to score Kimberly Johnson, who added a two-run double in the fourth.
Sahuaro loaded the bases in the top of the seventh, and had senior Rebecca Mullin at the plate with a chance to tie it. But Cash negated the threat by getting Mullin to fly out to end the game.
• Sabino 7, Phoenix Sunnyslope 2: At Sabino, the No. 4 Sabercats routed No. 5 Sunny-slope in a 4A-I state softball quarterfinal.
The game started an hour late because Sunnyslope's bus broke down en route.
Sabino, however, was mechanically sound. The Sabercats jumped to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and added five in the second.
With two outs in the first, Aubre Carpenter reached base on a walk. She stole second and scored on a double by Brandi Owens. Shawna Comeaux then singled to score Owens.
An error with the bases loaded in the second brought in Krystin Koepnick. Owens then cleared the bags with a triple, then scored on an a single by Comeaux for a 7-0 Sabercats lead.
Sabino ace Kaity Sitzman survived a scare when Comeaux, who was catching, turned a double play with the bases loaded to end the first. Sitzman fielded a chopper and threw to Comeaux for the force out at home. Then she threw to first for the third out.
Sitzman went on to strike out six batters in seven innings.
• Canyon del Oro 2, Cave Creek Cactus Shadows 1: At Cactus Shadows, No. 6 Canyon del Oro advanced to the 4A-I state semifinals. Janelle Christman pitched a one-hitter with two strikeouts for the Dorados. Hannah Sullivan and Kayla Bonstrom each had an RBI.
Three-time defending state champ CDO will play Peoria Sunrise Mountain at Phoenix Rose Mofford Softball Complex on Thursday at 7 p.m.
PHOENIX - Now is probably a good time to start paying attention to Douglas.
After the Bulldogs' 6-2 upset win at No. 2 seed Phoenix Greenway on Tuesday in the 4A-II quarterfinals, it's going to be difficult for No. 7 Douglas to keep flying under the radar.
Douglas will face sixth-seeded Sahuarita in the semifinals Thursday night at Cherry Field at 5:30.
"We're definitely something to be afraid of," Douglas pitcher Erika Tapia said.
Tapia's performance should certainly scare the teams left in the tournament field. She struck out 12 and allowed just two hits in her complete-game effort, while also helping herself at the plate with three doubles, two RBIs and two runs scored.
"I hope her back is not sore today from carrying us throughout the year. She's a heck of a ballplayer, and people are starting to notice that," Douglas coach Abe Grijalva said of Tapia.
Douglas did most of its damage in a three-run fifth, where Tapia was responsible for the game's key hit. Her double brought home Jazmine Hernandez and Nythzia Machado, and then a throwing error as Tapia tried to take third base allowed her to score and give Douglas a 4-1 lead.
• Sahuarita 10, Bullhead City Mohave 0: At Mohave, Sahuarita mercy-ruled its way into the 4A-II semifinals.
Four Sahuarita hitters had at least two hits, and ace Yvette Alvarez struck out 12 as the Mustangs ended the game in six innings.
Sahuarita will play Douglas in the semifinals Thursday at Cherry Field. Douglas won the teams' two previous games by scores of 1-0.
Brett Booen Daniel Gaona Gina Mizell