There were several times when it appeared this would not be a repeat of the 2011 softball state championship game:
When Basha got four straight hits to start the first inning but only came away with one run.
When Glendale Mountain Ridge hit its second home run off Basha ace Kailey Regester and led 6-5 going into the bottom of the fifth.
And when the Mountain Lions got their leadoff batter on base in the seventh.
“When I came out and wasn’t throwing well in the first inning it scared me a bit,” said Regester. “Then as soon as I saw how well everyone was hitting that first inning, I knew that we were going to have a good shot.”
Nicole Matta’s big two-run single in the fifth was the difference, along with Regester settling down to hold off a late Mountain Ridge rally in the Bears’ 7-6 win Friday night in the loser’s bracket final of the Division I state softball tournament at the Rose Mofford Complex in Phoenix.
“I just tried to stay relaxed and put the ball in play,” Matta said of her game-winning hit. “Nothing in the air, put it on the ground and see what happens. And that’s what I did.”
As it did a year ago, Basha and Red Mountain meet in the state title game, this time on Monday at 7:30 p.m. at Farrington Stadium at Arizona State.
But that was far from a sure thing after Regester gave up a 2-run homer in the first and allowed Mountain Ridge to tie the game at 5-5 with a second 2-run shot in the fourth. Then she allowed a ground-rule double to Alyssa DiCarlo to start the fifth, and later scored on an infield hit.
“Crazy, that got a little out of control for a while,” Basha coach Scott Hoffmeyer said. “Usually we are not real comfortable with games like that. I don’t think they are either. Luckily we got them calmed back down and just played some good softball.”
Regester had homered in the third which chased Mountain Ridge ace Taryn Kelly and gave Basha a 5-3 lead at that point. But in the fifth, she struck out. Then, Kylie Shull singled, Theresa Asta was hit by a pitch and one out later, Matta came up with her big hit.
Regester than retired the side in order in the sixth but allowed Amanda Cole to reach when her grounder to short was bobbled by Hailey Maher, who then threw high to first. But the defense made up for it on the next hitter.
DiCarlo bunted successfully to the third baseman Shull, who threw to second baseman Courtney Hiruko covering first. But then Hiruko fired to Maher covering second after the courtesy runner for Cole strayed off the bag. Regester struck out Bailey Gaffin to end the game.
“I think we came out a little bit flat,” Regester said. “But I thank my team for keeping me pumped up and I started to move ball in the sixth inning.”
She topped 60 mph on the radar gun but gave up nine hits over the first five innings.
Red Mountain beat Basha, 5-4, in last year’s title game. Basha beat Red Mountain 5-2 in the 2009 championship and between them they have the last four state titles in the state’s highest classification.
The schools met once this year, a 12-10 victory for Red Mountain at the end of the Desert Mountain tournament in March, when both teams' goals was to avoid injury.
“We are going to have to come out sharper than we did today,” Regester said. “I am going to have to come out sharper, move the ball more.”