Article from the AZ Daily Star: The powerful thud of Casa Grande Vista Grande’s Adecelli Archuleta’s bat sent shockwaves through Hillenbrand Stadium late in Monday’s Class 4A state championship game.
Salpointe Catholic pitcher Alyssa Aguilar’s four-run lead was cut down to one. The Lancers’ perfect season was in jeopardy.
Salpointe’s star then shook off the nerves and got three straight outs — including two strikeouts — to clinch a 5-4 victory and the Lancers’ third consecutive 4A state softball title. The Lancers finish 2021 with a 24-0 record, having outscored their opponents 279-24. Only four of their games — including Monday’s — were decided by fewer than four runs.
Aguilar’s final out was another memorable moment in an unforgettable season.
“I was super nervous,” Aguilar said. “I just know they are a good team, and they’re not going to give up easily. I just had to focus on myself, calm down, remember my mechanics, just get back to what I was doing before and not be nervous.”
Aguilar’s own work at the plate proved to be the difference in Monday’s title game. In the sixth inning, she blasted a home run into Hillenbrand Stadium’s left-field bleachers. In the moment, it seemed to be an afterthought; it ended up being everything.
“Honestly, I’m not a hitter,” Aguilar said. ”So that’s crazy for me, but I was super excited.”
Coach Amy Rocha credited the players’ inspiration and work ethic for the blemish-free season and stellar playoff run. The Lancers outscored their first three playoff opponents by a total score of 35-1.
“They’re special. They never took a moment for granted,” Rocha said. “I told them in our first practice, ‘You don’t want to wake up in May regretting you didn’t put in enough work.’ They lived up to that.”
Aguilar struggled with her command in the second inning. She walked the opposing pitcher, Alyssa Tinnin, fell behind Illeana Cosillos before a flyout to center, and Briana Jorgensen ripped a single to plate the first run.
But from there on, Aguilar found her groove. She sat down 14 of the next 16 batters, and the offense came to life with some aggressive baserunning.
Down 1-0, Aguilar ripped a grounder to shortstop and was safe at first. Alyssa Delgado’s sacrifice bunt was then thrown wide of first, allowing Aguilar to score and Delgado to reach third.
The next batter, Yannixa Acuna, singled to drive in Delgado. She then stole second, and advanced to third when the throw skipped away. A sacrifice fly by Anyssa Wild and a single by Kimmy McDaniels made it 5-1.
But in the seventh inning, Vista Grande (18-2) showed why it was No. 2.
Cosillos singled, Jorgensen hammered a double off the wall and after falling behind 0-2, Archuleta stayed alive with a few soft foul tips before crushing her three-run bomb.
“They put it together and made sure they capitalized on that moment,” Rocha said. “Not every team is going to lay down and just give it to us. Credit to Vista Grande for coming in here and putting up a tough fight. It was a beautiful game to watch.”