PHOENIX - A season ago, Pusch Ridge Christian's season ended with a blowout loss to Benson in the Division IV state championship.
The bus ride back to Tucson will be a little more enjoyable this time around.
Corrie Ward pitched eight innings, struck out 11 and hit a two-run double, Kristi Overman hit a walk-off single and the Lions topped St. Johns 3-2 on Saturday in the Division IV championship at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex to win the first softball title in school history.
"Last year at this time we were mostly crying … it was not a lot of fun," Pusch Ridge head coach Bob Vance said. "Our senior leadership has been so good this year."
The Lions got the bottom of the eighth started with a single from center fielder Paige Shepperd, but a miscommunication between Vance and Kailey Rohne on a bunt sign led to a three-pitch strikeout in the next at-bat.
Shepperd moved to second on Nique Vaught's groundout to short, and McKayla Rossi came into the game to run.
Then Overman shot the first pitch she saw to right field, and the Redskins' Savannah Reyes tried unsuccessfully to throw Overman out at first while Rossi sped around third for the winning run.
"I knew they were throwing outside and I just didn't want to strike out," Overman said. "I just wanted to make contact and I was hoping it would work out, and it did."
Overman said the home plate umpire made her game plan easier by having a generous outside corner throughout the game.
"It made me swing at some pitches I wouldn't have normally swung at, but it worked out great," she said.
Pusch Ridge's battery of twins - Corrie Ward and catcher Rachel Ward - stayed after their semifinal win Friday over Northwest Christian to watch St. Johns take on St. David in the other semifinal. There they devised a game plan of rise-balls and change-ups to pick apart the Redskins' lineup.
"I watched their batters and their swings," Corrie Ward said. "I'm really glad I did. It helped me a lot. Thank God my change-up was working today, because it wasn't at all yesterday."
St. Johns jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first on an RBI single by first baseman MaKenzie Udall, following a two-out walk to catcher Savannah Ramsey. The lead held up until the third, when Corrie Ward drove in a pair with a two-out double just over the third baseman's head.
"I'm so glad I hit that," Corrie Ward said. "I've been working on outside pitches all year, so it worked out perfect."
The Redskins evened the game in the fifth on a single by pitcher Sydney Ashton, who struck out 10 in her 7.2 innings of work. Vance said the win over St. Johns was just the second close game the Lions have played this season and the first they had won.