For seven innings on Saturday night, Waddell Canyon View had built a magic shield between third base and home plate. Six times, Surprise Willow Canyon left a runner stranded at third base, often with fewer than two outs.
The eighth innings, at first, appeared to follow a similar trend. Starter Lauren Ervine ran the lead-off batsman before making way – first of all game – for Taylor Jacobs. Jacobs hit a bunt, a sacrificial bunt and a deliberate walk, loading the bases with one.
But when she went 0-2 at Willow Canyon shortstop Riley Turlington, Jacobs inherited Ervine’s magic. Turlington, however, did not give up. She used to catch a ball outside, then a ball, then a lowered ball. Then in the end, he took the fourth ball high, bringing home the winning run and sending Willow Canyon to their second-straight 5A state championship with a 2–1 victory.
“I was just thinking middle-away, middle-away, get this run,” Turlington said. “And I was really focused on where the ball was going and it was highs, lows, changeups so I really focused and I got four balls.”
Turlington also took home the opening run of the game. Proceeding from the second inning, he crushed a pitch from Ervin on the ‘Arizona State’ signage on the outfield wall in straight center field.
Turlington said, “I’ve faced Lauren before and I knew she always lashed out at me.” “So when I had 3-2, I knew the pitch was going to be out and I felt like I wasn’t hitting my first bat. So it came in the middle and I gave it my best swing “
For a while it looked like Run Willow Canyon ace Marisa McCann would be needed. The Mizo-bound junior has been virtually unbeaten this season with an ERA of 0.29 and lived up to his reputation by scoring 15 runs on Saturday.
But this Canyon View team wasn’t the same as the one they lost 12-4 in last year’s championship game. Instead, the Jaguars fought back, using doubles from Savannah Groshong and Jacobs to tie the game in the sixth inning.
“They were just being so aggressive,” McCann said. “They were attacking and they were coming to the plate ready to swing and they weren’t delivering the pitches, so it took a lot of mental focus.”
However, McCann had the requisite combination of talent and focus to make a comeback from Canyon View’s sixth inning rally. During the seventh and eighth innings, he scored five runs and did not allow a baserunner.
Willow Canyon almost took advantage of McCann’s dominance in the seventh to win it.
The Wildcats got a double lead from Harmony Andrade, who moved up to third on the sacrificial bunt. But after a one out walk, Ervine strikes out to swing Kylie Bearden outside the zone on a full-count pitch. Then, with two outs and a base loaded, he propelled a lineout from Alanna Rogers to send the game for extras.
Finally, after eight innings and nearly three hours, it was here that the game came to an end, with Turlington throwing his bat to the ground and meeting teammates at a jubilee scrum in front of home plate.
“It’s hard to put into words,” said Willow Canyon coach Donnie Tizano. “They fight and they never stop. Even when it’s starting to feel like we can’t hit – things weren’t going our way, we can’t get a big hit, we We’re putting kids on base and we’re not getting into hard places – we just find a way.”
Theo Mackie includes Arizona High School Sports and Phoenix Rising FC. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @theo_mackie.