PHOENIX — A couple of Tucson teams learned a lesson Saturday at Rose Mofford Sports Complex:
Don't ever pitch to shortstops Alynah Torres and Dren Meginnis when so much is riding on the outcome.
Canyon del Oro pitched to Torres, and the Glendale Cactus senior delivered a two-run homer that fueled the Cobras to a 7-2 victory and sent them to Tuesday's 4A state softball championship game against top-seeded Salpointe Catholic.
Empire intentionally walked a batter in front of Meginnis to load the bases in the third. Meginnis made Empire pay with a grand slam — her 20th home run this season — that gave Peoria Centennial a 4-0 lead.
Meginnis shorted the game to six innings with a walk-off sacrifice fly to center for a 10-0 victory that moved the Coyotes into the 5A state championship game Monday at 5:30 p.m. at Arizona State's Farrington Stadium.
Centennial will face Ironwood Ridge, which swept a semifinal double-header Saturday against Scottsdale Horizon by scores of 14-4 and 8-1.
Salpointe only needed one game Saturday to advance to the 4A final.
After walking in a run with two outs and the bases loaded in the seventh inning, sophomore Alyssa Aguilar got Kassidy Outlaw to pop out to the infield for a 2-1 semifinal victory over Prescott Valley Bradshaw Mountain on Saturday at Rose Mofford Complex.
Cactus will face Salpointe on Tuesday night at Hillenbrand Stadium for the 4A title.
Torres, who ripped her 22nd and 23rd home runs of the season in Cactus' doubleheader sweep of Canyon del Oro, doesn't mind the trip. She just wants another shot at Salpointe and Aguilar, who retired the last 13 batters she faced in last year's 2-0 state championship win over Cactus.
Cactus had to win twice after Canyon del Oro beat the second-seeded Cobras 15-3 on Tuesday.
"Nothing against CDO and I hope people don't take it wrong, but I told our girls when we left this morning, 'I didn't go to bed early last night to get up early and come down here for one game,' '' Cactus coach Bartt Underwood said. "I said, 'They kicked our butts last time, so to me, they don't really respect us. When they leave, I want them to respect us.'''
The win over Bradshaw Mountain was Aguilar's 21st win this season, and she'll be ready to take the ball again on Tuesday.
By getting Outlaw to end the game, Aguilar avoided powerful hitter Caitylnn Neal, who came into the game with 72 hits, 23 doubles, nine home runs, 43 RBIs, and a .679 batting average.
Even only a sophomore, Aguilar faced a huge moment in last year's state final, when she retired the last 13 batters she faces against Glendale Cactus in a 2-0 state championship win.
There is state championship blood in the Aguilar family. Earlier in the week, Aguilar's cousin, Alex Parkhurst, was part of Salpointe's beach volleyball doubles state championship team with Abby Russell.
"I just knew that I had to focus on what I needed to do to get that last out, and not let anything else affect me," Aguilar said.
Aguilar's emotions never got the better of her when Bradshaw Mountain mounted its first serious threat in the final inning.
"We're super calm," Aguilar said. "We don't let anything get to us. We know what we need to do to win."
It was the fewest runs Bradshaw Mountain (34-3) scored this season. The Bears were hitting .416 and had 40 home runs, but Aguilar kept them quiet. Aguilar walked two and gave up a single to Shelby Dilcher in the seventh.
Salpointe (24-4) lost all four of its games against California on March 8 and 9 in the Mohave Tournament of Champions in Bullhead City. The competition started an 18-game winning streak by the Lancers.
"I feel that everything prepares you for the end," coach Amy Rocha said. "That (last) inning prepared them to be ready for Tuesday and get it done, and don't let anything around you dictate what you're here to do. And that's to win. Hats off to them ."