It took the arms and legs of Glendale Deer Valley (30-6) pitcher Lauren Haegar to defeat the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks girls’ softball team in the 5A-II state title game on Friday in Phoenix.
The Nighthawks entered the seventh inning tied 3-3, and then Haegar belted a solo home run for the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh. Haegar finished the year with 20 home runs.
“We tried to walk her,” said IRHS coach Randy Anway, who is in his ninth season. “She reached out and hit it over the fence.”
On the mound, the senior hurler struck out 15 batters.
“She’s one of the toughest pitchers we’ve faced,” Anway said. “But we had our opportunities.”
Robin Landrith’s three-run home run in the third gave the Nighthawks a 3-1 lead.
Was Anway feeling confident about the state title happening at that point?
“We knew it was a seven-inning game,” Anway said. “We’ve played them before.”
A solo home run had tied it for Deer Valley in the sixth.
The loss doesn’t totally diminish the accomplishments of a Nighthawks team that won 30 games.
“It was a team effort,” Anway said. “Everyone played hard. It’s the best offensive team we’ve had. Nine different girls hit home runs. We had 45 total.”
The game marks the end of Dani Colwill’s career. She is the lone senior, which bodes well for the Nighthawks future.
The Nighthawks also lost the title game in 2008.
The second-seeded Pusch Ridge Christian Academy Lions (24-2) softball team also lost, in the 2A-state title game, bowing in Phoenix to top-ranked Benson on Saturday, 12-2.
“Benson is a very good team,” said Pusch Ridge coach Bob Vance. “They didn’t have any flaws.”
Kaycee Thompson hit a two-run home run for the Lions runs. Mariela Ramirez went 2-3 with two singles. On the defensive side, catcher Rachel Ellis threw out a would-be base-stealing threat.
The Lions advanced to the title game by virtue of defeating Bourcade, 8-4, on Friday.
Thompson went 3-4 in the win, and also hit a triple. Pitcher Corrie Ward, who had nine strikeouts in an earlier playoff win, was according to Vance “fantastic.”
Vance was happy with the Lions season.
“The way we played together was impressive,” Vance said. “It was more than a softball season. There were no squabbles.”
Vance said it was a very successful season. Pitcher Ward finished with a record of 20-2. Ellis had an excellent season behind the plate.
“We lost to the best team in the state,” Vance said.