Four area teams come up short at AZ softball playoffs

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

PHOENIX, April 9, 2013

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(Special to the Times – Dustin Lopez)

TOP: Tuba City ace pitcher Shiniya Henry winds up and delivers a pitch against a Camp Verde batter. Henry finished the game with 10 strikeouts.

SECOND FROM TOP: Chinle catcher Shay Ayze beats the throw at first base against Holbrook in Phoenix. Chinle won 23-22.

THIRD FROM TOP: Monument Valley outfielder Brianna Hudgins tries to make a difficult catch against No. 9 seed Round Valley during the Arizona Division III state softball tournament in Phoenix.

I t was probably their worst performance of the year but there were a lot positive things to look at for both the Window Rock Lady Scouts and the Chinle Lady Wildcats.

Both squads won their opening-round matches during the Arizona Division III state softball championship early last week before they bowed out of the tournament last Friday in Phoenix at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex.

Window Rock had a tough time recording their final out in two frames as No. 6 seed Mingus Union run-ruled the Scouts by a 15-0 count that went five innings.

Chinle, meanwhile, committed eight errors and dropped an 11-0 decision to No. 5 Estrella Foothills.

"There was a lot of great things that happened tonight," Chinle coach Tim Su'e Su'e Liafua said. "Everything about tonight was new to them but this game does not dictate the season we had and everything that they accomplished."

In other action the Lady Warriors of Tuba City dropped a 3-2 decision to Camp Verde while Monument Valley came up short, 12-4, in its upset bid against Round Valley in the opening round of the tournament.

Liafua said playing Estrella Foothills was a monumental task but all he asked from his girls was their effort.

"I prepped them as much as I could," he said. "It just wasn't our night and it was tough but I did not ask them to do extra."

Despite the lopsided score, Liafua said he got some compliments from one of the parents from Estrella Foothills about Shaye Azye, his freshmen catcher.

"They have never seen a lefty catcher throw like her," he said, while adding that in one play Azye made an amazing throw to second for a potential out on Estrella Foothills player Taylor Godfrey.

"If my shortstop made the catch that would have been the first time she would have gotten thrown out," Liafua said of Godfrey. "The ball was there but she just bobbled it."

For the game and for much of the season, the Wildcats rode the arm of senior pitcher Nadia Natay. As Chinle's most dominant pitcher, Liafua said Natay helped established the team's identity, which is for the most part made up of underclassmen.

"She's an amazing girl," the Chinle coach said. "She works really hard and that rubs off to a lot of the girls. I am just happy and proud of them. They deserved to be here, they earned it.

"I just want to let my seniors know how much I appreciate them," he added. "This was a great ride for the team, the school and the community but we're not going to stop. We want to continue and build on this."

Natay, who has played four years on the varsity squad, said she was happy to see her team make it this far. She was even more ecstatic about her team breaking their curse against Holbrook, a team they beat in the opening round of the state tournament.

"Whether it was state or regional (play) we always had to play Holbrook," she said. "They would always beat us but we finally broke the Holbrook streak."

In that game, the Wildcats were down three runs heading into the bottom of the seventh before they got the game-winning run from Christina Bia. The senior outfielder batted a hard-hitting drive near the second baseman as Chinle outlasted the Roadrunners, 23-22.

"I've coached many games and this game had an exciting finish," Liafua said, "but it was a nail-biter. It was a lot of fun but at the same time it was scary."

Window Rock

Other than two innings, the Scouts were in this game.

But in the second and fourth frame, Mingus Union pushed across five and 10 runs, respectively to help close out Window Rock's season.

"For two innings we could not get our final out," Window Rock coach Hank Henson said. "When you struggle to get those outs, it plays havoc on your game plan."

For the most part, Hanson said his ace pitcher Mckenna Parker did a good job of getting ahead in the pitch count but for some reason she could not find the strike zone to keep the momentum going.

"I don't know what it was," Hanson said. "It might have been nerves but I have to give my compliments to that Mingus pitcher."

Inside the circle, Mingus pitcher Angelina Saucedo threw a complete game and allowed one hit while striking out 10 batters.

"She did throw hard, but she also struggled at times and we didn't take advantage of it," Henson said. "We got a couple of runners on but we couldn't move them around."

Henson said making the tournament was a blessing, but winning their opening round game was something the girls will relish, especially for the departing seniors.

"We haven't won a state tournament game since the 2007 season when we made it to the Final Four," Henson said. "It's a good feeling to make it past the first round.

"We lose some seniors so we have gaps to fill," he added, "but the players that are coming back saw what it takes to make into the next game."

Tuba City

As the higher seed, the Tuba City Lady Warriors were three outs away from advancing into the second round but two errors in the seventh inning ended their season.

With a 2-1 lead heading into the top of the seventh, things started to unravel for the Warriors as Camp Verde scored two runs.

"All year we harped on the fundamentals and the one thing that hurt us all season was errors," Tuba City coach Jon Yazzie said. "Today we played four perfect innings and all we had to do was shut them down but we had those two errors."

The Warriors finished the game with four errors. Despite that senior pitcher Shiniya Henry put up some gaudy numbers with 11 strikeouts.

"She is No. 52 in the nation and No. 3 in the state with strikeouts," Yazzie said of Henry. "She's got six different pitches so she throws all kinds of junk but our freshman catcher did not anticipate where those breaks were going to be."

On a somber note, Yazzie said he's going to step away from coaching.

"I'm moving on," he said. "After teaching for so many years I'm taking on an administrative position in Kayenta."

And with six freshmen in the lineup, Yazzie said whoever takes over the program will have plenty to work with.

Monument Valley

Despite being seeded No. 24, the Mustangs gave No. 9 seed Round Valley a run for their money before falling, 12-4.

The Mustangs finished the year at 9-8 and made the tournament by beating Page 6-5 for that final spot.

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