3A softball: Yuma Catholic barely survives

April 27, 2019 by Jose Garcia, AZPreps365

Yuma Catholic

Yuma Catholic didn’t gift wrap the game for Blue Ridge.

It came close, though.

Three errors in the bottom of the seventh inning helped fill the bases with Blue Ridge runners. Up came Blue Ridge’s leadoff hitter with two outs and a berth to the second round of the 3A Conference softball state tournament on the line.

But starting pitcher Natalie Hernandez induced a force out at home to help Yuma Catholic escape with a 5-3 victory at Rose Mofford Sports Complex.

After the game, before congratulating her team, Yuma Catholic coach Madison Miller had her girls run five sprints for each error in Saturday’s game. The errors, first round jitters and the hot weather almost proved costly.

“We tried to stay calm and huddled and said, ‘We are going to be OK,’” said Hernandez about her team's lapses in the seventh inning. “It was really a huge team effort.”

Blue Ridge went up 2-0 in the first inning and 3-1 in the fifth inning behind the strong pitching of Mazey Heath (2 for 4, 1 intentional walk).

But sophomore Iolani Reaves picked the perfect time to hit her first triple of the season. The No. 8 hitter’s hit to right-center in the sixth inning with two outs and two on knotted the game at 3-3.

“I saw that there were two outs and knew I couldn’t miss it,” Reaves said. “This is my time, and I had to get a hit.”

The game was halted for about 20 minutes, as the umpire left the game with heat related symptoms.

When the game re-started, Yuma Catholic’s bats continued to go to work. An RBI triple by Natalie Hernandez followed by an RBI single by Kayla Browning in the top of the 7th scored the final two runs for 19-3 Yuma Catholic, the 11th seed, which will play No. 14 seed Pusch Ridge in the second round.

“I think the first inning we were super nervous,” Miller said. “It seems like the fourth inning is our magical inning. Once we started the fourth inning, we were on it.

“We just kept battling and didn’t stay down. It was the first time it's been this hot while we were playing.”

Blue Ridge, the No. 6 seed, stranded 12 runners, including 7 in scoring position and left the bases full three times.

But Blue Ridge posted one of the state’s better turnarounds. It only won five games last season but increased that total to 18 this season, when its state championship coach, Chris Fraze, returned to the dugout.