Horizon softball reached its peak in the sixth inning and rode a wild ride to the finish.
Behind a pair of Tamara Statman home runs, the No. 6-seeded Huskies held on for a 9-8 win against No. 8 Peoria Centennial on Tuesday in Division I state tournament elimination game at Rose Mofford Sports Complex in Phoenix.
Statman tied the game at three in fifth inning with a home run, then busted open the game in the sixth with a grand slam.
“She has been a big part of our offense ... She had a great day at the plate but if our nine-hole hitter doesn’t come up, have a really good at-bat and take the walk that (grand slam) doesn’t happen,” said Horizon coach Brian Casey. “There were a lot of key points that went into that win. If one through nine come through, and the girls on the bench, then we’ll be OK. You can’t always count on the big dogs to carry you through.”
The Huskies (25-9) loaded the bases in the sixth when Megan Howard lined a pitch through the circle. The ball glanced off Centennial pitcher Paige Mills’ glove and ricocheted off her eye. She walked off the field under her own power and was replaced by senior Hannah Andersen.
The new Coyotes pitcher induced a force out at home for the second out but Angelique Pitt fouled off three pitches before she drew a walk to force in the go-ahead run.
That brought up the freshman pitcher who drove a 3-and-1 pitch to nearly the same spot she hit her first home run.
“She did a really nice job making adjustments at the plate from her first at bat,” Casey said.
Statman also had a double in the third and scored on a wild pitch.
Horizon tacked on one more run when Nicole Newbury doubled and scored on Margaret Stahm’s RBI double to make it a six-run sixth.
That was the insurance the Huskies needed.
The Coyotes (26-9) answered as the first three hitters reached base safely, including Makaylah Petro’s RBI double that scored Avianni Davis. Skylar McCarty followed with a walk to load the bases for Centennial’s clean up hitter, Abby Beasley.
The senior first baseman clobbered a 1-1 pitch from Statman that cleared the fence by plenty, to cut the Huskies lead to one.
“She hit a bomb. That’s who we want up in that situation,” said Centennial coach Mike Repak. “She delivered again.”
Statman recovered to retired the final three Coyotes in order to advance. Horizon will face top-seeded Basha.
“I tell the girls all the time, they make me old every game,” Casey said. “We tend to make games close. (Centennial) did a great job at the end. They could have folded up their tent but they didn’t.”
Horizon scored the game’s first run when Howard drove in Sarah Gore on a sacrifice fly in the second inning.
Centennial answered with three-run third, as the first five batters reached base with Davis, Destinee Luna and Petro crossing the plate.
Repak said his squad had overcome some late season bumps, but rallied around each other when the tournament rolled around. That helped them finish strong with seven straight wins before falling to top-seeded Basha in the opening-round of elimination play.
“We’ve come together the past couple of days,”Repak said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them - the fact that we clawed at the end and they did their best. Those are life lessons ... You have to keep scratching and clawing. It stinks to lose but they didn’t lay down either."