As a freshman on the Sunrise Mountain softball team, Jamie LaBovick got a taste of playing on a championship club.
That was 2006.
Now a junior, and the Mustang's ace, LaBovick would like nothing better than to lead her teammates to a state 5A Div. II championship.
"I was a freshman when we won the state tournament," LaBovick said. "So I hope we can duplicate that again this year."
No. 2 seed Sunrise Mountain (33-2, 12-0 in Desert West League) rode LaBovick's arm again Wednesday at Rose Mofford Park as it defeated No. 3 Sunnyside 2-0 and will face Ironwood Ridge Saturday in the state finals.
And Mustang coach Nick Rizer said it was a no brainer who will be pitching for all the marbles.
"Jamie is just a work horse," Rizer said. "We have a real good freshman pitcher, but Jamie just wants the ball and when she's out there she gets after it."
The junior right-hander struck out 13 Blue Devils (30-7, 6-0 in Southern B League), including four straight spanning the second and third innings, and had at least two strikeouts in five of seven innings. She also walked one, hit a batter and allowed three hits.
And when she needed a big out to escape a jam, as in the fifth and sixth innings, LaBovick delivered.
"We ran into some trouble in the fifth and sixth, but Jamie stepped up," Rizer said. "That was a lot of pressure on Jamie but she seems to get better in those situations and I think we have a better than average chance that the other team won't score."
In the fifth, Sunnyside saw its first two hitters - pitcher Marina Contreras and first baseman Ivinia Campas - reach on a single and an error. Both runners advanced on Blue Devil left fielder Nicole Marquez's sacrifice bunt, however, LaBovick buckled down and retired Tina Rodriguez and Adrianna Gradillas on strikeouts.
The sixth was another test for the Sunrise Mountain pitcher, who, with one out, walked pinch hitter Amanda Martinez and gave up a single to Desaray Akins. But, like the inning before, LaBovick used her drop ball and change up to get both catcher Melina Trujillo and Contreras on strikes.
"Jamie is just a gamer," Rizer said. "She had a good drop ball today and was able to get calls on the outside half of the plate. It's great when she can get her four pitches working."
"After the last couple of weeks, our defense has let us down," said Blue Devil coach Pete Palomarez. "We gave it our best shot but they are a good ball club and we take our hats off to them. Looking back, though, we won 30 games this season - that's a pretty good year. That said, I still wish we were on the other side."
The Mustangs jumped on the board in the third when right fielder Taylor Rauscher had a one-out base hit and came around to score on Brigette DelPonte's base hit that ricocheted off Blue Devil shortstop Janessa Martinez and rolled past Marquez, allowing Rauscher to score from first, and giving DelPonte second base. She would be cut down in a pickle after being picked off second by the catcher, Trujillo, to end the inning.
LaBovick led the fourth off with a double that just missed being a homerun by a few feet, hitting the base of the outfield fence and rolling under for a ground rule double. Two outs later, Sunrise Mountain left fielder Destinee Deherrera poked an opposite field base hit that took a funny bounce and got past right fielder Briana Romero, allowing Deherrera to scoot around to third with a run-scoring triple.
"Jamie and our shortstop (Brigette DelPonte) will be our senior leaders next year and our top catalysts" Rizer said. "If you look at my lineup, Brig is a power hitter but she leads off just so I can get her more at bats."
DelPonte went 2-for-3 at the plate with a pair of singles and an RBI, and Deherrera was 2-for-2 with a single, triple and an RBI. Contreras paced the Blue Devils, going 2-for-3 with a pair of singles.
This wasn't the first time the Peoria school faced the Tucson squad this season. The two opened the season at the Dorado Classic, where Sunnyside handed the Mustangs their worst loss of the season, 4-0. However, Sunrise Mountain got its revenge in the tournament championship game, downing the Blue Devils 12-0. They also played in the quarterfinals of the state tournament May 3, with the Mustangs winning the contest 2-1.
One field over from Sunrise Mountain's game, No. 9 seed Ironwood Ridge (19-12-1, 4-2 in Southern B League) defeated No. 4 Horizon, 9-1.
First pitch for the Mustangs and the Nighthawks is at 8 p.m. on Field 1 at Rose Mofford Park in Phoenix.