TEMPE — Salpointe Catholic softball coach Amy Baray-Rocha stood in the third-base coaching box and watched her team get down to its final out, trailing Cienega by seven runs in the top of the seventh inning.
The two-run rally was short-lived, and it dawned on Baray-Rocha that there’d be no state championship, no comeback, no possibility of the 17 Lancers reliving the same euphoric high and pride she felt in 1993 and 1996 with the school.
“I’m just so proud of my girls for being fighters to the very end,” Baray-Rocha said. “That’s going to help them in life. I’m very grateful these young ladies have embraced the culture that I want to bring to the softball program.”
The Lancers (29-8) didn’t get the result they were looking for in their first state finals appearance since 1999, as Cienega jumped out to an early lead and never looked back on its way to a 9-2 win.
But for senior captains Annie Scarangella, Allison Curtis and Delfina Morales — all four-year players with the program — the entire season had been more than they could have ever expected.
Their careers are done. Curtis is off to play at Central Michigan. Morales will pack her bags for Trinity, and Scarangella is headed for Brown University of the Ivy League. Prior to this season, Scarangella, Curtis and Morales had been coached by three others before teaming up with Baray-Rocha to help restore purpose to the program. Despite the differing skill sets, they’ll leave with lessons Baray-Rocha taught them over the course of 37 games.
“This season means the world to me,” Curtis said. “I’ll take with me to college my the ability to fight for a spot, how coach taught us to continue to keep fighting.”
Scarangella added, “She taught us how to embrace a coach. I’m going to go on and play my hardest for my next coach, just like I did for coach Amy.”
Moments after the loss, Morales said “losing never feels great, but losing with your sisters is better than losing not together. We learned how to win as a unit, how to be a real team and how to be a family. I’ll keep that in mind in the future.”
Scarangella, who knocked home Salpointe’s first run in the seventh inning, knows her team will make the 100-plus mile trek back to Tucson with something her teammates can’t hold up or showcase behind a glass trophy case: a sense of accomplishment.
“Our goal from Day 1 was to reach the state championship,” Scarangella said. “Although we didn’t win, we got here.”
With players like up-and-coming juniors Brianna Aguilar and Megan Flores, along with the freshman duo of Yannira Acuna and Erika Marquez returning, Baray-Rocha knows they can make deep postseason run next year.