5A Division I softball state tournament
When: Saturday through May 13
Where: First two rounds and first loser’s bracket round at higher seed; Quarterfinals/Loser’s bracket games, semifinals and championship at Rose Mofford Sports Complex.
First round schedule (all games at 11 a.m. unless noted): No. 16 Kofa at No. 1 Red Mountain; No. 9 Casa Grande at No. 8 Alhambra; No. 12 Chandler at No. 5 Mountain Ridge; No. 13 Skyline at No. 4 Mountain View (Mesa); No. 15 Mesquite at No. 2 Gilbert; No. 10 Salpointe at No. 7 Xavier; No. 11 Dobson at No. 6 Hamilton; No. 14 Buena at No. 3 Basha.
Favorite: It has to be Red Mountain. The defending-champion Lions have been as consistent as they come in 5A-I this spring, especially offensively. Rich Hamilton’s lineup is chock full of his self-titled mix of “rabbits and rhinos,” even in this year of the offense. Though not quite as good as last year, the Lions defense is solid, and will be this team’s catalyst behind pitchers Siera Phillips and freshman Bre Macha.
Darkhorse: Hard to call No. 3 Basha a darkhorse given their abilities and key girls with postseason experience, but the Bears were off the map until a month ago. Basha, Mountain View, Xavier, Hamilton and Gilbert all more than qualify here, and someone had to go here.
Outlook: Both 5A tournaments feel like a jumble of a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle: Nobody really knows where they fit. That’s a good thing for fans of parity and unpredictability, because while there appears to be a divide after the top seven, everyone within that seven has shown itself capable of beating all the others. Because of that, Red Mountain’s (and No. 4 Mountain View) side of the bracket appears far more advantageous than the Gilbert-Basha-Xavier-Hamilton side.
5A Division II softball state tournament
When: Saturday through May 13
Where: First two rounds and first loser’s bracket round at higher seed; Quarterfinals/Loser’s bracket games at Sandra Day O’Connor H.S.; Semifinals and championship at Rose Mofford Sports Complex.
First round schedule (all games at 11 a.m. unless noted): No. 16 Yuma at No. 1 Horizon (1 p.m.); No. 9 Centennial at No. 8 Perry; No. 12 Betty Fairfax at No. 5 Deer Valley; No. 13 Westview at No. 4 Pinnacle; No. 15 Carl Hayden at No. 2 Cibola; No. 10 Chaparral at No. 7 Sandra Day O’Connor; No. 11 Sunnyside at No. 6 Desert Mountain; No. 14 Mountain View (Marana) at No. 3 Ironwood Ridge.
Favorite: Deer Valley has the best pitcher in the state in Florida-bound Lauren Haeger. Her 0.40 E.R.A., 339 strikeouts, not to mention a .546 batting average and 15 home runs would support that case.
Darkhorse: A No. 1 seed is a darkhorse? Thanks to Haeger, yes. But what a season for Horizon. The Huskies began with a sudden coaching change after former softball and wrestling coach Ben Wick was arrested and eventually removed as coach after being pulled over by police and then allegedly resisting arrest. With Brian Casey at the helm the Huskies rallied. Starting with pitching (sub-2.00 ERA), the Huskies have won 11 consecutive games entering the tournament, including ringers against Desert Mountain and Pinnacle.
Outlook: It’s not much different than 5A-I, really. Seedings aren’t completely indicative of the “pecking order” here, as Sandra Day O’Connor and Perry have both shown to be better teams than the number attached to them, while most consider the jury still out on No. 2 Cibola given its soft schedule. Still, it’s a really deep division and that’s with Centennial having a slightly down season from the norm. Watch out for Perry, O’Connor and Ironwood Ridge, but a certain advantage should go to the Desert Valley Region teams (Horizon, Pinnacle, Desert Mountain, Chaparral) have played the toughest schedules in 5A-II.