Horizon softball jumps to early lead, then drops hammer against Mountain Ridge

A Horizon runner rounds third base as Head Coach Jackie Colburn sends her home during the Huskies 3-0 win over Mountain Ridge Thursday, March 22. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

It is never a good idea to fall behind the Horizon High School softball team 3-0 early.

And it is a particularly bad sign when that deficit occurs with senior Ashley Gullmette in the circle and a fresh junior ace Morgan Leinstock ready to enter from the bullpen.

Thursday, March 22, Gullmette picked up a crucial out at home with the bases loaded in the top of the first and got through the next two innings. Leinstock handled the rest, striking out 10 Mountain Ridge High School batters in the next four innings to preserve a 3-0 Horizon victory.

“Ashley is a senior and she’s struggling a little bit right now but we’re really trying to get her in a groove because we’re going to need her if we’re going to go the distance,” Horizon coach Jackie Coburn said after the game.

“That first inning got a little rough. I think she’s trying to find her comfort level but she was much better after that and I’m proud of her.”

Pitcher Morgan Leinstock tosses a pitch during a 3-0 win over Mountain Ridge Thursday, March 22. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

After freshman phenom Spencer Prigge hit two of her 10 home runs against the Mountain Lions in the Huskies 7-4 win Monday, March 19 in Glendale, the Mountain Lions made a conscious effort to stay away from Horizon’s power source, walking her twice.

So the Huskies received contributions throughout their lineup, getting seven hits from six players. Junior Breanna Burden had two hits, including a first-inning RBI that drove in junior leadoff hitter Ashlyn Senior.

Prigge had walked earlier and moved to third on Burden’s single. Senior Neeley Bell singled to bring Prigge home.

“What’s good to see is, everybody’s hitting. We played Xavier and everybody hit,” Coach Coburn said. “They walked Spencer and that’s the way it’s going to be. We’re finding a groove with the lineup and I think it’s pretty set now.”

Mountain Ridge (4-6, 3-5 regular season) had its best chance in the first and could not capitalize. The young Mountain Lions also made junior starter Tiffany Williams’ job more difficult in the second.

Horizon sophomore Kaity Woods singled to lead off the inning then tried to steal second. An errant throw allowed her to come all the way home with an insurance run.

Williams settled down from there, scattering three hits in the final four innings of work.

“My defense was so incredible. I was able to throw where I wanted and I knew they could make the plays,” Williams said. “When I got those strikeouts it really helped keep our energy up and I could push through those last couple innings.”

Sophomore Paige Callahan was a bright spot for the Mountain Lions, hitting two singles against Leinstock, who otherwise allowed only one other Mountain Ridge player on base.

“It’s unbelievable what Paige Callahan is doing for us. She had two hits off (Leinstock) Monday too. She’s keeping it simple,” Mountain Ridge coach Kent Decker said.

Horizon enters Friday, March 23, afternoon’s home game with Gilbert with an 11-6-1 overall record (5-2 regular season) and is ready to battle the best of 6A. The regular season losses were to defending champion Hamilton High School and 2017 semifinalist Perry High School.

More big fish await in the heart of region play. Two games with O’Connor High School await in early April, then the Huskies close with two against rival Pinnacle High School. Both Desert Valley Region foes have been nationally ranked at different points this season.

“We’ve got the nine that we’re really going to go fight with,” Coach Colburn said. “We just need to have better at bats. We had good at bats early and scored three runs (today). We got away from our plan and tried to hit her plan and struggled.”

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