The No. 4 Camp Verde High School softball team advanced to the semifinals of the Arizona Interscholastic Association 2A State Championship with a 6-2 win over No. 5 Santa Cruz Valley High School on Friday, May 5, played at Phoenix’s Rose Mofford Softball Complex.
A four-run fifth inning lifted the Cowboys [16-1, 9-1 Central] to a 6-0 lead. Freshman Jacy Finley practically did it all for her team, batting three for three with four RBI and tossing nine strikeouts in the pitcher’s circle.
“Jacy is a great pitcher, you know, she’s tough to hit against,” Cowboys head coach Henry Smith said. “She’s a freshman but she plays like a big time gamer ... She’s blossomed and I’m so proud of her in the way that she’s matured and handled the pressure for this state run.”
Already up 2-0, Camp Verde junior Serenity Garcia drew a leadoff walk to start the fifth. A series of bunts and Dust Devil errors saw the lead double to 4-0.
Senior Kayla Hackett drew another walk, and Finley hit a two-run single to right field to tack on the final two scores.
Camp Verde’s first run came in the second frame, another combination between Hackett and Finley. The senior hit a leadoff double before the freshman sent her home with a single.
The team’s second run, and Finley’s second RBI, arrived in the fourth. Sophomore Tyra Smith bunted and advanced to second base on a pair of errors. Two batters later again it was Finley who came through with the hit.
“That’s what we did all season, is trying to learn to stay disciplined and be patient and let the game come to us,” Smith said. “Their pitcher is one of the top pitcher’s in our division if not the top pitcher, and something we knew we had to do was apply pressure.”
After a quick sixth inning that featured zero baserunners for both teams, Santa Cruz Valley ended the shutout in the seventh.
An error in center field allowed the Dust Devil leadoff batter on, and a double by San Devil senior Tylor Gil scored the run immediately after. A passed ball and another base hit landed Gil at third base, who then scored off of a sacrifice fly.
Gil, who is No. 2 in runs scored, No. 6 in RBI and No. 5 in home runs across all divisions in Arizona, was held in check by Finley and the Cowboys defense. Her only hit of the day was the seventh-inning double, and she struck out in the first inning with a runner on third.
Between Camp Verde’s six errors and four walks dealt by Finley, Santa Cruz Valley had ample opportunity. However it managed just one hit with runners in scoring position and stranded 11.
The Dust Devils’ best chance was in the top of the first inning, when they had the bases loaded with one out. But Finley got her second strikeout and a lineout ended the threat.
“We started out a little rattled, we started out anxious, which is perfectly normal,” Smith said. “I think they were possibly the same way. But we were able to gain that control by the second inning, and then it was just a matter of playing it out.”
Despite the errors Camp Verde’s defense was locked in when it needed to be.
It converted a run-saving double play in the third. Smith picked up a bunt and threw to first before senior second baseman Madison Johnson returned to junior catcher Jade Oium to make the play at the plate.
Hackett dove to snag a line drive in the second inning that, had it gotten through, would have scored at least one run.
Finley's three hits and four RBI were both game-highs. Johnson finished with two hits while Hackett and senior Miranda Sharp each had one.
Finley went the distance in circle, giving up one earned run while scattering four hits and four walks with the nine punchouts.