It took three seasons, but West Mesa High School’s softball team will finally be moving into the second week of the Class 5A state tournament.
The Mustangs had lost in the Round of 16 in each of the past two years under coach Jimmy Hernandez, but West Mesa broke through Friday afternoon, as the seventh-seeded Mustangs beat visiting No. 10 Cleveland 5-4 in eight innings.
“Getting over the hill of winning this first playoff game is a step in the right direction for us,” Hernandez said.
It was a pair of freshmen who carried the day for West Mesa (17-7), which won its 11th consecutive game.
Eva Perez singled to right field in the bottom of the eighth, scoring Caitlyn Begay with the winning run and sending West Mesa into next week’s quarterfinals.
Begay had started the eighth at second base, part of softball’s international rule that was designed to help avoid lengthy extra-inning games.
With one out, Luna Simoni had an infield single, putting runners at first and second.
Then Perez, on an 0-2 count against Cleveland starter Brooke Hodgson, singled home the game-winner.
Another freshman, Maya Contreras, supplied a key hit in the Mustangs’ four-run fourth inning. With the bases loaded, she lined a ground single to center, scoring two runs. But Storm outfielder Lindsay Paboucek misplayed it, and the ball rolled to the fence. Everyone scored on the play, including Contreras, for a 4-1 lead.
Cleveland (14-13) tied it with three runs in the top of the fifth, including a two-run single from Hannah Obrey.
No. 3 VOLCANO VISTA 8, No. 14 VALLEY 2: At Volcano Vista, the Hawks didn’t quite enjoy the same power output as the last time they met the Vikings, but their potent offense was still far too much for the Vikings in a Round of 16 elimination game.
Volcano Vista (21-4) hit seven home runs when these teams met during the regular season.
The Hawks only managed a meager three on Friday.
In the bottom of the first, after Jade Gray walked and Victoria Castro singled, Taylor Sargent belted a three-run home run to center as the Hawks led early 3-0.
A similar scenario played out in the third inning.
Lauren Wilmert singled, Deezha Battle walked, and then Rayanne Garduño hit a three-run homer to left-center as the Hawks doubled their advantage to 6-0.
Starting pitcher Celina Sullivan went the distance for Volcano Vista, and she also homered in the game, with a solo shot in the fifth.
“Those home runs were well timed with people on base,” Hawks coach Cheryl Johnson said.
Volcano Vista advances to play No. 6 Cibola, a district rival, in next week’s quarterfinal round, although the tournament is double elimination from here on out.
No. 6 CIBOLA 10, No. 11 HOBBS 6: At Cibola, the Cougars got home runs from Nicole Shack, Ari Maldonado and Jasmine Mitchell as they advanced to meet Volcano Vista in the next round.
Shack belted a two-run homer in the first inning, and Maldonado added a solo shot in the bottom of the second that tied the game 4-4.
Mychaylah Cordova had the go-ahead RBI single in the third for Cibola.
The Cougars added two insurance runs in the fourth to go up 7-4, and Mitchell added a two-run homer in the fifth as Cibola steadily pulled away.
Cordova had a lengthy stint in relief of Shack to earn the win for Cibola.
No. 4 HOPE CHRISTIAN 12, No. 13 WEST LAS VEGAS 1 (5): The Huskies easily won their first-round matchup Friday, pounding out 12 hits against the Dons.
Faith Romero had a home run and five RBIs for Hope Christian (16-11), which led 8-1 after three innings.
Sofia Davis-Olague was the winning pitcher for Hope, and she also homered in the victory.