Solid defense, pitching lead Chaparral softball past Willow Canyon

Chaparral sophomore Mia Rushton gears up for a swing during the Firebirds’ 7-3 win over Willow Canyon in the second round of the 5A state playoffs. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

While Willow Canyon High School’s coach Donnie Tizzano called his opponents defense great, Chaparral High School Head Softball Coach Mike Stoffey said his team’s defense was business as usual.

The No. 4 Firebirds mixed solid defense and pitching with timely hits to get past No. 12 Willow Canyon  7–3 at home Tuesday, May 1 in the second round of the double-elimination 5A state playoffs.

The win advances Chaparral to the third round for a game against No. 8 Ironwood Ridge. Willow Canyon falls to the loss bracket to face No. 1 Arcadia High School. Both games are Thursday, May 3 at Rose Mofford Sports Complex, 9833 N. 25th Ave. in Phoenix.

The Firebirds kept the Wildcats at bay for most of the game, allowing only one run through the first six innings. Pitchers Maggie Thurston and Hannah Ross combined for eight strikeouts.

Thurston said early, she was having trouble finding the strike zone on her drop pitches but she was patient.

“The coaches told me to stay and throw my pitches, don’t adjust to his strike zone,” she said after the game. “My drop ball started working better and he (the umpire) started calling them for me.”

Coach Tizzano said he didn’t agree with where the umpire called the strike zone but he was consistent in his calls.

“(Chaparral) just kept going down there and kept hitting that spot, and he (the umpire) kept giving it to them and we didn’t adjust early enough to what was happening on the field,” he said after the game. “More than anything, that’s what got us at the plate.”

While Thurston was pitching patiently, the Chaparral bats started going first with a pair of RBI singles in the bottom of the first from junior Haley Boxwell and freshman Callie Honig.

Chaparral senior Maggie Thurston winds up for a pitch during the Firebirds’ 7-3 win over Willow Canyon in the second round of the 5A state playoffs. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

Willow Canyon responded with a home run to centerfield from junior Makayla Gliori to cut Chaparral’s lead to 2–1 in the top of the third. That score permeated until the bottom of the fourth.

Chaparral sophomore Maddie Myers fired off a two-run homer in the fourth and Honig followed in the next inning with her own two-run homer. The Firebirds added in one more in the fifth to bring its lead to 7–1.

Coach Stoffey said he was impressed with how his players were patient when hitting and paying attention to what the pitcher is throwing.

“I think the kids did a really nice job at making those adjustments,” he said after the game. “We didn’t make those adjustments against Queen Creek Saturday but today they did and you saw the result, we eventually started lifting the ball out of the park.”

The Wildcats did score two more in the top of the seventh when junior Carrigan Foster knocked a triple to right field that allowed the runs to reach home.

Coach Tizzano said he doesn’t believe the score reflects how close the game really was and even in defeat, his team made a statement.

“We can play with anybody in the state,” he said. “We played good competition and we played (Chaparral) close. It really just added one game to the bracket for us.”

Chaparral, on the other hand, moves forward still with no losses in the playoffs. Thurston said the Firebirds learned valuable lessons from this win they can apply moving forward.

“We can make those adjustments when we need to and we can hit the ball,” Thurston said. “When things do start to go a little awry, like in the top of the seventh, we can tighten it back up and pull ourselves together.”

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at or at 623-445-2738

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