Desert Edge bounced back from a 3-2 loss to Phoenix Northwest Christian in the second game of pool play of the Apollo Cool Nites tournament to win four straight games and reach the championship game.
The Lady Scorpions had to endure a daylong marathon to get to the March 9 title contest against Glendale Ironwood, and fatigue may have caught up to them as the Lady Eagles prevailed, 9-6.
After beating Millennium, 5-2, March 8, the rest of the day's slate was rained out, forcing the Lady Scorpions to play four games the final day, completing the task just before midnight.
The March 8 postponements caused some tournament games to be shifted. Desert Edge played its first two games March 9 at Buckeye before having to scurry over to Apollo for the semifinals and finals.
"We had about 20 minutes to get to Apollo," coach Rob Shorts said, with a chuckle. "They gave us a little extra time."
That grind may have played a role in Desert Edge's loss.
The Lady Scorpions led 4-1 after three innings but were unable to hold off Ironwood.
A seven-run fourth frame gave the Lady Eagles an 8-4 lead and they were able to stave off Desert Edge's comeback attempt.
Kyra Espinoza led Desert Edge's nine-hit attack with three hits and two RBI. Ari Samaniego and Madelyn Calderon both had two hits with one of Calderon's being a double.
Freshman Sophia Gibbs, who had blanked Tolleson and Apollo earlier in the tourney, drew the starting pitching assignment in the title tilt.
Gibbs went 3 1/3 innings, giving up eight runs, six earned, on nine hits and was tagged with the loss.
Another freshman, Ambria Dorsey, relieved Gibbs and completed the game. She went 2 2/3 innings, surrendering one earned run on three hits.
"I wanted to get some innings for a freshman and I was trying to preserve Cyra's [Wentz] innings for power-point games," Shorts said. "Sofia did amazing. After shutting out Tolleson and Apollo, she ran out of gas against Ironwood and we replaced her with
Ambria Dorsey, another freshman. They both did amazing. Sofia allowed only four earned runs in the tournament."
Gibbs and Dorsey are two of a talented freshmen pitching threesome
at Shorts' disposal.
"We have good pitching depth," Shorts said. "We have four freshmen pitchers who will be good varsity pitchers.
Cindy McLeod is a freshman hurler who is already drawing interest from Division I colleges, Shorts said.
"She has some tendonitis now but she is going to be a good one," Shorts said.
Shorts expects the team's pitching wealth to give it a huge advantage.
"What that will do in the long run, we will be able to give our pitchers a little more rest and we will get into the playoffs a little more rested," Shorts said. "In the future, that will pay a big dividend for us."
Desert Edge began the tournament with a 9-1 rout of Tolleson before losing to Phoenix Northwest Christian.
The Lady Scorpions then won four consecutive games, three via shut out, to reach the championship game against Ironwood.
Desert Edge defeated Millennium, 5-2, in the final pool-play game, and then beat Tolleson, 9-0, Millennium, 7-0, and Apollo, 10-0, setting up the title matchup with the Lady Eagles.
"It felt really good to play well and get to the championship game," Shorts said. "That was the first time all year that the offense really got going. We really found a groove against Millennium.
"I was really happy with the way we played, especially with all the freshmen we played. At times, we had five freshmen in the game at the same time. We were pleased they were able to step up and compete. They did better than we could have been expected."
The momentum Desert Edge built up in the tournament carried over to Monday's contest against Surprise Shadow Ridge. The Lady Scorpions won the game, 16-1.
Wentz starred against the Lady Stallions and went two innings. She departed the game with Desert Edge leading 11-1.
"Sofia no-hit them over the last three innings," Shorts said.
Desert Edge won its second consecutive game Tuesday, whitewashing Westview, 8-0.
Wentz started in the circle and at the plate for the Lady Scorpions.
She threw a complete-game, two-hitter, striking out 15 and walking just one.
Wentz had three hits, including a double, and knocked in three runs to lead the Desert Edge offense. Sanchez added a pair of hits and three RBI.
Desert Edge continued its winning ways Wednesday by knocking off Estrella Foothills, 7-4, improving its record to 9-4. Samaniego broke a 3-3 tie with a grand slam in the top of the fourth.
The Lady Scorpions will be idle until hosting Buckeye at 6 p.m. March 19.
Mike Russo can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.