The sacrifice fly was just deep enough, and Logan Cole raced home.
Swarmed by her teammates the pint-sized freshman celebrated Salpointe Catholic’s second straight Class 4A state title in a 6-5, eight-inning victory over Glendale Cactus on Tuesday at Hillenbrand Stadium.
But the excitement wasn’t over quite yet.
A Cactus player took off for the umpires, standing by the left-field exit. She wanted to let them know her team had appealed that the first-base runner, senior Malea Rocha, daughter of Salpointe coach Amy Rocha, had left early.
The game hung in limbo.
After what seemed like forever, with the umpires hearing out both coaches, Amy Rocha danced back to her team signaling they had won.
“We’ve worked hard from Day 1 to be where we are today,” Amy Rocha said. “That’s what is great about our team, they do what is necessary in the moment. They’re selfless and they play for each other. That’s what we did tonight.”
If the umpires had kept the teams playing, it would have been the most devastating of many missed opportunities for the top-ranked Lancers (25-4).
Up 3-0 in the third inning, they loaded the bases with one out for Celeste Cortez, but she bounced a grounder back to Cactus pitcher McKenna Feringa, who turned it into an inning-ending 1-2-3 double play.
Cortez didn’t get another at-bat, being replaced in the sixth inning by Elise Munoz, who drilled a pinch-hit double to tie the game after No. 2 Cactus (32-4) took its first lead in the top half of the sixth.
But again, Salpointe couldn’t put it away. Instead, with the bases loaded and no outs, Cole plated a run on a fielder’s choice, shortstop to third, Malea Rocha was called out for making contact outside the batter’s box and Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage struck out. One inning later, Salpointe squandered yet another offensive opportunity, as Yannixa Acuna struck out looking with a runner on second.
In the eighth, Jordan Johnson and Cole reached second and third after back-to-back hits, but Rocha drilled a grounder right at shortstop and ASU commit Aliyah Torres, who fired home for the first out. It felt like Salpointe was going to throw it away again, but Cole never hesitated, getting a great jump from third and racing past the throw from Cactus second baseman Hannah Difabio.
“She’s a great athlete,” Amy Rocha said. “I feel Salpointe is going to help prepare her for the next level, and we’re extremely excited to see the next three years out of her.”
Rocha lavished praise on her players, the administration and her coaching staff after the game, calling them all “one team.” She also thanked her mentor, a guy who she just acknowledged as “Frank.”
But despite plenty of people having a hand in getting the Lancers to this point, in the end, it was the underclassmen that got them across the finish line. Cole went 3 for 5 with two RBIs. Munoz, a sophomore, came up with the game-tying clutch hit when Salpointe needed it most, and sophomore starting pitcher Alyssa Aguilar allowed five runs on 11 hits and no walks with 10 strikeouts.