Chaparral girls advance in 6A softball playoffs with win over Shadow Ridge

Chaparral freshman heads off first base as Shadow Ridge junior Aris Carroll prepares to field a ground ball during the April 30 6A softball first round game in Surprise. (Ryan C. McGinley/Dysart Unified School District)

Freshman pitcher Sachi Sakai had the lead throughout her 6A first round playoff start for Chaparral.

But the youngster showed fortitude in stranding seven Shadow Ridge runners in scoring position April 30. Her final inning-saving out came with the potential game-tying run on third base.

In the second, third and fourth innings, Sakai picked up the third out without allowing a run — despite facing a combined six runners in scoring position during that stretch.

That proved the difference for No. 9 Chaparral (18-10) in its 6-5 first round win at No. 8 Shadow Ridge (17-6).

“Our No. 1 pitcher is on the shelf right now. So Sachi was just given notice a couple days ago. She did an amazing job pitching five innings and holding Shadow Ridge to five runs, and to get herself out of those jams,” Chaparral Coach Mike Stoffey said.

As Coach Stoffey mentioned, senior starter Hannah Ross was not available after pitching a complete game in the Firebirds’ 7-4 play-in victory against Mesa Dobson April 24.

Chaparral is in the double-elimination portion of the bracket and travels to top seed Pinnacle (22-3) at 4 p.m. Thursday. After splitting the regular season matchups, the intimidation factor associated with the No. 1 team is mostly gone.

“We’re the only team to beat them all regular season,” Coach Stoffey said. “I wouldn’t say that’s our preference, but I know Mr. (Bobby) Pena (the Pinnacle coach) very well.”

Shadow Ridge’s veteran pitcher, Natalie Moody, has missed her senior season with an injury. Junior Emari Evans received the playoff start.

Both lineups hammered the pitchers early.

Chaparral led 3-0 before its first out. Freshman Allie Humburg led off with a double to deep center, and senior Haley Boxwell followed by smacking a RBI triple to the base of the right field fence.

Junior Lauren Werning drilled a two-run homer to left.

Sophomore Callie Honig added a single and junior Katie Humburg doubled to center before Evans recovered to pick up two outs. Following a walk to load the bases, junior Kalyn Baker singled a 3-2 pitch back up the middle to stake the Firebirds to a 4-0 lead.

“We’ve started some games that way, but what’s tended to happen to us after we start a game like that is, we go flat,” Coach Stoffey said. “What I was so impressed by this game is they added on to the lead. And they held on to the lead.”

They would, but not before the Stallions got off to a similar scorching start.

Junior Mia Perez began by dropping a bloop double near the line in shallow left field. Senior Mickey Covarrubio cranked a two-run homer over the right field fence to cut the lead in half.

After Sakai recorded an out, junior Sophia Carroll pulverized a changeup, depositing it well over the wall in left center.

After that power display, the Firebirds intentionally walked Carroll the rest of the game.

“They threw her a changeup and she hit it so darn hard, hit the snot out of it. It was supposed to be an outside pitch and it was closer to 2/3 of the plate. She saw it and drove it well. I get it too. Why are you going to put up the batter on that can change the game quickly,” Shadow Ridge coach Nadine Arias said.

Chaparral loaded the bases in the third thanks to a leadoff single by sophomore Amber Schweigert, a hit batter and a walk. Boxwell’s sacrifice fly brought home an insurance run.

Sophomore pitcher Morgan Green came on in relief in the fourth and held the Firebirds down the next three innings. She walked two with two outs in the sixth, but escaped thanks to Covarrubio’s diving catch in center.

“She’s probably the best center fielder I’ve ever seen. She did everything she could to keep us in the ball game. That shout over there, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her swing like that. She looked like a lumberjack,” Arias said.

The visitors managed to hone in on Greene in the seventh. Schweigert and junior Maddie Myers hit back-to-back singles.

With two outs, Allie Humburg produced what turned out to be the winning run.

“Any time you can add on to the lead, especially with the twins coming up, is a big deal. We needed that run to win the game,” Coach Stoffey said.

Trailing 6-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning with two runners on and no outs Stallions sophomore catcher Paige White drove a pitch to deep left center.

An inch higher and the ball clears — or bounces over — the fence to tie the game. Instead, White was limited to an RBI single and the home team faced a 6-4 deficit with runners at first and second.

White advanced to third on senior Paiton Tornberg’s RBI groundout and a sacrifice bunt, but Sakai shut it down.

“(Paige White) couldn’t hit that ball any harder than she did. I’m very proud of them and how they fought. We were down 4-0 so early,” Arias said. “We were always within striking distance. But there were a couple of times we left people on base and that hurt.”

Editor’s Note: Richard Smith is the West Valley Preps sports editor for the Daily News Sun.

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