The Sahuarita softball team sent coach Chris Fanning off in style – with a 4A-II state championship.
With a combination power, speed and some Liberty errors, the top-seeded Mustangs handed Fanning his second state title in 19 years at the school with a 10-6 win Saturday at Rose Mofford Sports Complex.
“It was a pretty big deal for us to win it for him,” said sophomore Sigourney Sanchez. “He’s been here (in the semifinals) eight times and only one once, so we showed him that we were his team this year and that we’re his favorite.”
Sanchez added that part and punctuated with a smile and a laugh, but she had reason to after the game she had. The Sahuarita third baseman had two home runs, six RBI and four runs scored in the title game.
“Before the game I was really nervous,” Sanchez said. “But after the first inning I felt real comfortable and I wasn’t nervous anymore.”
A four-run first inning has a way of calming those nerves.
Alyssa Salazar reached base on an error to open the bottom of the first and with one out the Mustangs loaded the bases on back-to-back walks.
That brought up Sanchez who is hitting .355 on the season.
The sophomore lined a shot off the glove of first baseman Mandy Owens that went down the line, scoring Salazar and pitcher Yvette Alvarez and Lyzette Creason came in on a wild pitch before Liberty pitcher Cortney De La Chica recorded the first of her seven strike outs on the night. But Alexus Torrez followed with an RBI single to left to plate Sahuarita’s fourth run of the inning.
“Coming into tonight’s game, the last three state games we played prior we hadn’t scored until the fourth inning,” Fanning said. “Getting off to the start we had helped put us at ease at the plate and we had much better at bats, which carried throughout the rest of the game.”
The Lions cut the lead to three in the third on Jaclyn Jayo’s blast over the center field fence for her third home run of the season. But that momentum was short lived as Sanchez drove a 3-1 pitch for a home run that brought in Creason.
She added another two-run homer in the fourth, again scoring Creason for her sixth RBI of the game.
“I like those inside, down the middle pitches and I saw it (on the first home run) and knew that was the pitch,” Sanchez said. “I hit it and knew it was going over. But on the second one, I wasn’t expecting another home run, I was expecting a base hit but I swung and out of nowhere felt it and again it went over.”
Creason and Sanchez, the No. 4 and No. 5 hitters, accounted for seven of the 10 runs. A Liberty throwing error in the sixth led to two more Sahuarita runs, with Sanchez scoring the Mustangs’ final run.
But the Lions didn’t make it easy for Alvarez and Sahuarita.
“We’ve been battling team all season,” said Lions coach Kortny Hall. “Nobody thought we’d even be in this game, so we’re very proud of our girls and everything they’ve accomplished, especially being such a young team.”
The Mustang senior hadn’t allowed more than one run in a game since giving up two to Santa Rita April 20 and Saguaro, who was the No. 9 seed in the 4A-I tournament, scored as many as six runs. Alvarez came into the game with a .46 earned run average and 300 strike outs. Alvarez also hit .487 on the year with 19 home runs and 81 RBI.
“All through the lineup my girls were hitting the ball hard,” Hall said. “Its just matter of getting those hits to go through. Today, it just didn’t go our way.
Liberty tacked on two in the fifth inning as Lindsey Campbell and Anderson Phillips opened the inning with back-to-back singles. Nicole Himes drove in Campbell with a one-out single to left and Phillips came in on a wild pitch.
Liberty kept the Mustangs waiting in the seventh as Campbell again led off with a single. With one out, Jayo doubled to center and Himes knocked them both in with the second straight double against Alvarez. Himes came around on Mandy Owens’ two-out RBI single to cut the lead to four but Alvarez was able to retire the final batter on strikes to cap the win and the championship.
“This (game) shows by leaps and bounds where this program can go,” Hall said. “These girls have definitely set the bar high for future Liberty softball teams.”