TEMPE — San Manuel’s softball team found itself in a familiar position on Monday evening at ASU’s Farrington Softball Stadium, playing in its third straight state championship game.
The outcome, however, was foreign.
Sixth-seeded San Manuel was held to only four hits and fell short of winning its third straight Division IV state crown with a 3-0 loss to No. 5 Superior, which won its first title since 2007.
Senior captain Felicia Medina shed tears as she embraced her teammates after the game but said it wasn’t because of the loss — it was more because her time with the Miners was over.
“Next year, I won’t get to play with these girls anymore” said Medina, who is signed to play for Central Arizona College. “It’s just heartbreaking to know I won’t step on a field with them ever again.”
Even though it was a loss, Medina said it was nice for her and her fellow seniors, such as captain Mireya Tamayo, to be finishing off their stellar careers by playing in a Division I facility and taking home a trophy once again.
The catcher flied out to left for the final out of the game and rounded first base as Superior poured onto the field in celebration.
“We couldn’t put the ball on the ground,” San Manuel coach Deanne Brewer said. “That’s the biggest thing; we were reaching out for the pitches and popping them up. You’ve got to put the ball on the ground.”
Junior pitcher Lyana Waddell struck out seven batters and held Superior to just one run though the first five innings. But the Panthers pushed their lead to 3-0 when Phalicitee Thomas hit a two-run homer.
The Miners (23-7) managed to load the bases in the bottom of the inning but Nicole Encinas lined out to the shortstop to end the frame.
“I thought we were going to pull it off,” Waddell said. “I didn’t have any doubt in us at all; I knew we could come back and do it.”
San Manuel was held hitless by Superior pitcher Ivie Lopez through the first two frames until senior first baseman Alyssa Cuellar came up with a two-out single in the bottom of the third.
But Cuellar ended up stranded at first after Medina popped out to the catcher. The two who have called each other teammates for the last four years will be in opposing dugouts next year since Cuellar is signed to play for Pima College.
“It’s an honor to be playing with these girls, they’re like sisters,” Cuellar said. “It’s amazing that we’ve bee here three times; whether we’re state champions or runners up, I’m still proud of us.”
Contact high school sports coordinator Daniel Gaona at 807-7761 or email@example.com. On Twitter: @DanielGaona13