The double-elimination stage of the state tournament hadn’t been very friendly to Cienega’a softball team over the last two years, resulting in four straight losses and a pair of much-too-early exits.
Things got off to a better start this time around.
Senior ace Kalya Green struck out three batters over four innings on her birthday, and eight different players scored as the fourth-seeded Bobcats rolled past No. 12 Tucson High 14-0 in five innings at Amphitheater in the third round of the Division II state tournament.
Click here to view more stats and scored from around Southern Arizona on Thursday along with Friday's state tournament schedule.
Cienega (23-8) has won seven straight games now, and takes on No. 9 Peoria Sunrise Mountain next Tuesday in Phoenix with a chance to move within one win of reaching the state championship game for the first time since 2011.
“I’m jumping for joy inside,” Green said. “I don’t even know — I just want to laugh. It’s so amazing to be able to play this sport at this level, and playing with Cienega is just amazing.”
The Bobcats amassed 11 hits and stole six bases in the win, handing Tucson its first loss in almost three weeks and dropping the Badgers (17-14) to the loser’s bracket. The Badgers will next play No. 1 Goodyear Desert Edge on Saturday in a win-or-go-home clash.
Cienega coach Eric Tatham said he had been thinking about his team’s recent postseason woes but never brought it up to the girls.
“This is the game we wanted to get to and make a move on it,” Tatham said.
It didn’t take long for that to happen.
The Bobcats scored three runs with two outs in the bottom of the opening frame with the help of a two-run single by sophomore Taylor Lambert. Two innings later, Cienega pushed its lead to 8-0 on another two-run single, this time by Shae Bushey, who was also celebrating her birthday on Thursday. Bushey scored one batter later as part of a seven-run inning by the Bobcats.
“It’s especially a good end for a birthday,” Bushey said.
Freshman Miranda Carley had one of the top plays of the game when she sent a bomb to deep center for a triple but was able to score on the play when the throw home was off target.
With Cienega already in control, senior Shelby Kennedy notched her 31st career steal, tying the program record. However, she fell down a few feet from second base, drawing laughs from her teammates.
“This was definitely a big win,” Kennedy said. “We were really focused on getting over our hump because we always get to this point and we really just wanted to push forward and keep moving.”
The aggressive play, Tatham said, has helped keep things loose with the team and he doesn’t plan to change anything going forward. Cienega has won 11 of its last 12 games with the lone loss coming by one run at Sunnyside.
An emotional Tatham was overwhelmed by the win. “It means a whole lot,” he said. “These seniors mean a lot to me. This is the furthest they’ve gone, and I believe this is their year.”
CIENEGA 14, TUCSON 0 (5 INN.)
Tucson 000 00 – 0 2 4
Cienega 327 2x – 14 11 2
W – Green. L – Zazueta. 2B – CIEN: Pavelich, Bushey. 3B – CIEN: Carley.
Contact high school sports coordinator Daniel Gaona at 807-7761 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @DanielGaona13