Once upon a time this season, Perry's softball team was 3-6 in power point games and No. 42 in the rankings.
On Saturday, the Pumas won a playoff game to set up a second-round matchup with their neighborhood rivals.
The streak is up to 10 consecutive wins after Jillian Leslie helped her own cause on the mound with a back-breaking 3-run home run in the sixth inning of No. 16 Perry's 4-0 victory against No. 17 Corona del Sol in the Division I state tournament's opening round on Saturday afternoon.
The win moves Perry into the second elimination game at No. 1 Basha on Tuesday afternoon. Perry lost 3-0 and 5-2 to Basha during the regular season, so you might figure it to be a tall task ahead for the Pumas.
Then again, so was making the playoffs at one time.
Perry coach Kevin Chapin - who spent nine years as an assistant at Corona del Sol until taking over at Perry last spring - admitted he was one of about two people in the dugout who thought the Pumas would make the postseason during the first week in April following a four-game losing streak, let alone a home game.
The new tournament format helped with 24 teams, as did the schedule down the stretch (though Perry also beat Chandler during this winning streak), but it's a moot point now.
"We talked about it before the game: Are you happy to be here or do you want to get something done," Chapin said. "We're not just happy to be here."
Leslie's pitching, defense and an ability to counter mistakes quickly with a positive play have led Perry back. In addition to her high-arcing home run that just cleared the left field wall, she allowed only three hits, struck out seven and got a key double play behind her in the third inning to end Corona's best threat.
"We're going to ride her through the playoffs," Chapin said. "She can do it. Her conditioning is outstanding."
On a day both pitchers racked up a combined 20 strikeouts, Lindsay Heffron was one of the few to make contact early on against Corona ace McKenna Isenberg, and she connected. Her solo home run in the second inning was a no-doubter over the left-center field wall and gave Perry a 1-0 lead.
Corona del Sol was ready to strike first in the second inning against Leslie, as walks to Bria Schmitt and Nicole Giannonatti led to second and third with one out, but Leslie got two strikeouts to end the threat.
Corona really wishes it could have a third-inning do-over. A double by Lani Redmond and a bunt hit by ASU-bound Abby Spiel put runners on second and third with nobody out. The Aztecs tried a suicide squeeze but it was popped up to third base and Perry turned it into a double play. A groundout ended the inning.
Still trailing 1-0 and with Lani Redmond on second base with two outs, Spiel blistered a ball into right field, but Laynee Gomez only needed to move one step to catch the screaming liner for the third out.
Despite her team being ravaged with injuries at various points this season (Isenberg hadn't thrown a complete game or more than 60-65 pitches this season until Saturday), the Aztecs' playoff hopes were also in limbo until they won four consecutive games to secure a spot.
"From where we started to the end, we did nothing but get better," Aztecs coach Jeep Ray said. "You have to live and work through it and learn, but I wouldn't trade this season or these girls."
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.