5A Softball: Empire beat Mountain View 1-0 in extra innings
April 19, 2019 by Andy Morales, AZPreps365
Mountain View and Empire are located at complete opposite ends of the Old Pueblo, so much so that the setting sun of Marana is matched by the rising moon of Vail. Sure, distance can measure here from there but, in this case, distance does not exist.
Mountain View (18-8) started the day ranked No. 7 in the 5A Conference and Empire (27-2) was No. 8. Mountain View beat Empire 2-0 three weeks ago to open up region play and Empire beat Mountain View 1-0 Friday night in extra innings (of course) to end region play. The result? Both teams finished 9-1 in the Sonoran Region and both squads will play in the postseason.
Since region play does not come with an automatic playoff qualifier in the 5A Conference, playoff position will be based solely on ranking and that’s where the real divide between the two programs will be measured. The final rankings will be released on Tuesday, April 23 but it is almost certain Empire will remain in the top eight and avoid the Play-In Tournament for teams ranked 9-24.
Depending on how the final power points come out, Mountain View still has a chance to stay in the top eight, but the worst case scenario is a home game in the Play-In Tournament on April 24.
Vanessa Brink took the circle for Empire and Jessica Niegocki got the ball for Mountain View. The result was zeros across the board until Emily Shreves hit the gap in left for a double with two outs in the bottom of the eight inning. Odalys Garcia-Peret followed that up with a walk-off single to score Shreves on her senior night.
Niegocki finished the game with 12 strikeouts, including two to start out the bottom half of the eighth, but Brink held the Mountain Lion batters in check on the other side.
“We are doing a lot of things right,” Niegocki said. “I really feel we are going to go far in the playoffs. Everybody has given a lot to this team and we are really close. We are here for each other.”
Brink had six strikeouts but it was her ability to induce groundballs and pop-ups in critical situations that proved the difference. Niegocki started the game out with a leadoff single and Taylor Garner reached on an error to put two on but a fly ball and a pickoff at third base after the catch ended that early threat.
Mountain View had a chance in the top of the eighth after Clarissa Kennedy reached on a pinch-hit single with one out and Makayla Morales (no relation) followed with an infield single to put two on but two groundballs shut the door.
In all, the Ravens came away with three hits, with Takiya Hill picking up a single in the fourth inning, and the Mountain Lions had five. Hailie Mann had a hit in the second inning and Morales went 2-for-3.
“This has been an amazing year for us,” Brink said. “We are so young and we have connected. We have come through in so many times. I really love my teammates.”