Things have been wacky in 5A Fiesta Region softball this season. And when Highland High School threatened to overcome an early deficit against Mesquite right-hander Lindsay Rittenhouse on Wednesday, it appeared another outing would be added to the region's odd string of events.
Three Highland errors led to Mesquite’s seven-run second inning, forcing the host Hawks to try to get back into the game against Rittenhouse, the leader of the fourth-ranked Wildcats with an 0.63 ERA.
But, what looked like a walk in the park for Mesquite turned into something of a nail-biter in an 8-5 Wildcats victory in a matchup that determined the region lead.
Rittenhouse (16-2) was perfect through three innings, but allowed six hits over the next two, including four in a five-run Highland fourth that pulled the Hawks to within 7-5. Mesquite (22-2, 4-1) added a run in the fifth and held on.
"It turned into a slugfest," Mesquite coach Jeff Shufelt said. "(Highland) has a lot of fight, to their credit."
Rittenhouse outdueled freshman left-hander Danielle Pineda (9-13).
A hit batsman and three consecutive infield errors scored a run and put runners on base for the heart of Mesquite’s batting order in the Wildcats’ big second inning.
Ali Baumhover, Jenna DiGuiseppe and Renee Welty came through with RBI singles in the inning. Rittenhouse drove in two runs with a single. When it was over, Mesquite had sent 10 hitters to the plate for a 7-0 lead. None of the runs were charged to Pineda.
"Dani's kept us in every game," Highland coach Colleen McCallum said. "We typically don't make those kinds of errors."
The Hawks (8-14, 3-2) got to Rittenhouse, sending nine batters to the plate in the fourth. Pineda's single and RBI doubles by Kelsi Jensen and Justine Pineda trimmed the lead to 7-2. Lindsay McHenry added a two-run single and went to third on Cami Bushel's RBI grounder that trimmed the lead to 7-5. But she was stranded there when Rittenhouse got Danielle Salazar to pop out to short.
Mesquite added an insurance run in the fifth on Amber Lira-Henson's RBI single that scored Sandra Lara, who had doubled. The Hawks continued to hit the ball, but singles by Shannon Phillips and Justine Pineda went for naught in the fifth. Salazar and Jensen singled in the seventh, but failed to score.
"I didn't have much working," Rittenhouse said.
Highland had won three of four games heading into the contest, with its only region setback a 1-0 loss to Yuma Kofa, which earlier handed Mesquite its only region loss.
"We've hung with every top 10 team," McCallum said. "It's just a matter of us going to the next level."