Piedra Vista clinches eighth straight title

By Quentin Jodie
Navajo Times

ALBUQUERQUE, May 23, 2013

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(Special to the Times – Curtis Ray Benally)

TOP: Piedra Vista Panther Zach Johnson sets a new state record in the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.53 seconds during the 2013 New Mexico Class 4A state track meet in Albuquerque.

SECOND FROM TOP: Aztec Lady Tiger Dakota Kaufman attempts to make contact with the ball at the bottom of the fourth inning in the championship game of the 2013 New Mexico Class 4A state softball tournament in Albuquerque. The Lady Tigers lost to the Piedra Vista Lady Panthers, 5-2, on Saturday.

I t seemed just like old times again for the Piedra Vista softball team.

Since the 2006 season the Panthers have made it habit of playing for the New Mexico Class 4A state softball championship and each year they have mowed downed their opponents.

This year was no different as the top seeded Panthers met their district rival Aztec for the second consecutive year and came up with the same result: a 5-2 win as PV claimed its eight straight title at the University of New Mexico softball field on Saturday.

"First of all, a lot of credit to Aztec," Piedra Vista coach Kevin Werth said. "For them to battle back (on Friday) to win those three games to get to this point again, that's a testament to the way they play ball and the we play ball in the Four Corners.

"And to beat a team of that quality four times in one season for the second year in a row is a testament for our kids and how hard they work," he added.

For five innings PV senior Krissy Fortner gave up one hit before the Tigers, the tournament's No. 4 seed, scored two runs in the top of the sixth.

While trailing 5-0, Aztec Hailey Morris got on base with a single hit with two outs. Next at bat, Dakota Kaufman took advantage of an open field as PV shifted its defense to the left side.

Kaufman then ripped a shot down the right field line for a two-run, inside-the-park home run.

"We've been trying to do that for two years," Aztec coach Jose Santistevan said about getting around PV's ploy at defending slap hitters. "We've been trying to put the ball down the right field line and we got it done today. Dakota hit that inside pitch pretty hard."

Santistevan said his team initially employed that tactic when PV had four slappers a few years back.

For the most part that scheme worked in Saturday's game as PV recorded 17 straight outs with shortstop Susie Chandler recording eight of them including the last three.

"Our defense is pretty solid and obviously Susie is our leader," Werth said. "She's been our shortstop for three years. The kid is a stud and she's going on to bigger and better things."

Next season Chandler will be suiting up for the New Mexico State University softball team.

"Being a senior this is probably the most touching because of all the hard work we put in," she said. "It's just a great feeling and every year it never gets old."

Chandler said playing shortstop is one of the most critical positions on the field while adding that you have to be quick on your feet and have the ability to make strong throws.

"It's a big part of your defense because you get a lot of shots hit there," she said. "But our pitcher does an amazing job. She's worked her butt off and it shows because she can really hit her spots."

For the game Fortner gave up two earned runs on four hits and walked one, while striking out four batters.

"To keep the tradition going is tough but it means everything for us," Fortner said. "We can finally breathe again because (today's win) took a lot of pressure off."

Fortner said playing Aztec for the fourth time this season was not easy since they know their tendencies.

"It's tough every time we play them but we know what to expect and we were ready to play," she said.

On May 17, the Tigers had to survive three elimination games after losing to PV by a 10-3 count in the third round of the double-elimination tournament.

Two of those games went extra innings as Aztec eliminated Gallup, 7-5, before getting past No. 2 seed Artesia, 3-1.

"I am proud of the way they played, not just this game but if you go back to the start of the tournament with Los Lunas, it was tough," Santistevan said after beating Artesia. "They battled through everything."

After losing to PV in last year's championship game, Santistevan said it was their goal to make the finals again but he admitted that the Panther's have their number.

"We're not going to quit trying," he said. "One of these days it will turn over."

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