Jordan Beck guessed wrong and still came out a winner.
A similar juxtaposition worked out for pitcher Bre Macha, who missed time with injury late in the regular season, was day-to-day for most of the state tournament. She couldn't throw her full arsenal of pitches, was flustered at times by the strike zone and had Basha runners all around her.
But she went the distance in No.2 Red Mountain's 5-2 victory against No. 1 Basha in the Division I state championship game at Arizona State's Farrington Stadium in a matchup of the two winningest programs since the double-elimination format took hold in 2006.
That included the final inning, when the Bears loaded the bases and twice had the tying run at the plate.
The Lions are the first Class 5A-sized school to win three consecutive state championships in Arizona high school softball history. They also won their fourth title in six years, though this is the first time they've done it through the winner's bracket.
Speaking of things working out for Red Mountain, freshman Alyssa Fernandez was a second baseman until February because the Lions needed outfield help. The freshman missed on a diving attempt along the left field line in the third inning and had the wind knocked out of her. In the fourth, she made a diving catch with two on and two out in the fourth inning to save at least one run. Then made a running catch against the wall in the fifth to save another run.
She also made a diving catch to rob Horizon of a hit in the seventh inning of the Lions' 2-1 victory a couple games prior in state tournament.
"It's not like she only does it in games either," Beck said of Fernandez.
By then, the Lions' "rabbits" (lead-off speedsters Haley Culley and Payton Kornfeind) had been driven home by the "rhinos" (swingers Siera Phillips and Beck).
The Lions scored four times in the first inning off Basha pitcher Kailey Regester because of a double by Phillips and, with two on, a sophomore catcher who was looking for a riseball but got a fastball instead.
"I swung anyway," Beck said.
She hit a three-run home run over the left-center field wall and the Lions had a 4-0 lead.
Basha - which has won two championships under coach Scott Hoffmeyer - fell to Red Mountain for a second consecutive season in the championship game.
But not without trying. The Bears spent most of the night doing just that to Macha and the Lions in the comeback quest.
Outside of the first, Regester settled in and shut down Red Mountain for almost all of the final six innings, and didn't allow a hit to the Lions' 5-through-9 hitters all night.
Meanwhile, Basha singled and walked its way into numerous scoring chances. Macha's only 1-2-3 inning was the second, but a solo home run by Theresa Asta in the fourth was Basha's only scoring until the seventh.
The Bears left 11 runners on base.
Hoffmeyer refused to comment after the game.
"I went out there loose, no nerves," said Macha, who won her second consecutive state championship game from the circle. "Pitching in the game last year helped. Getting those runs early was big. It is for any pitcher."
Red Mountain's top of the order added another run in the fifth on a bunt hit by Culley, who won her third state championship in her fourth title-game appearance in high school.
A sacrifice by Kornfeind, Phillips' single and a ground out by Beck made it 5-1.
Basha had one last fight in the seventh. A double by Hailey Maher, a walk and hit batsman loaded the bases with one out. Hailey Siroky lofted what was initially a single into right field, but the runners had to wait to see whether the ball would be caught, and the Lions were able to get a 9-6 force play at second base. Maher scored, but a fly ball to right field ended the season, and, for the Lions, started the celebration.
Macha allowed six hits and the two runs, plus six walks. She struck out four, though she was asked if she her seven innings was more like 12.
"It feels like it," she said.
Not unlike what was required for the Lions to win three consecutive championships, and no other school or shuffling of decks stopped them.
"With a new playoff system, alignment, new divisions, I think (the format) proves a true state champion," Hamilton said. "...The kids do everything we ask and this is the reward."
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.