March 1, 2005
Horizon softball coach Blaize Gatti told his team it is a contender for the 5A state title following the Huskies’ season opener Monday.
Sure, there may be nearly three months of softball yet to be played, but Gatti’s comments didn’t seem so farfetched considering Horizon had just vanquished defending champion Glendale Deer Valley, 5-2, at Horizon.
Riding an impressive complete-game, 10-strikeout performance by pitcher Ashley Smuda, the Huskies (1-0) immediately proved their run to the state quarterfinals a year ago was no fluke. Add in a pair of sparkling debuts by freshmen Sara Strickland (2-for-3 with a sacrifice bunt and a run scored) and Lindsay Vollmer (2-for-4, 2 RBIs), and Gatti’s remark looks even more valid.
The win gives Horizon an early boost as it is scheduled to face Arizona’s last three state champions in its first four games. The Huskies will host Tucson Flowing Wells — the team that knocked them from the state tournament a year ago and won the title in 2002 — Wednesday, and 2003 champion Corona del Sol Monday.
"This was huge for our girls," Gatti said. "We were concerned (about the schedule), but it puts into perspective on where you are sitting in the state. The girls see it as an outstanding challenge. They are determined, and this definitely gets us off on the right foot."
Smuda was perfect through the first three innings, striking out seven of Deer Valley’s nine batters.
Horizon loaded the bases in the opening frame against Deer Valley’s Kristen Cruickshank but couldn’t muster a run. Following an uneventful second inning, the Huskies came alive to score three runs in the third, which proved to be all Smuda would need.
Horizon’s Jaci Hull lead off the bottom of the fifth with a home run.