Junior third baseman Nikki Zielinski hit a three-run walk-off home run, her second fence-clearing shot of the day, to total seven RBI and three runs scored on four hits to power the Mingus Union High School softball team to a five-inning, 14-2 win over visiting Prescott High School on Thursday, March 9.
The Marauders [3-1, 2-1 Grand Canyon] avenged their first loss of the season, 10-5, at the hands of the same Badgers team on March 7.
“You know it’s a great response because I knew the team had it in them and we didn’t play well Tuesday,” Mingus head coach John Brown said. “We played overconfident, and to watch them make the quick adjustment and come back around and play the way they should, that was big for us.”
The tone was set in the first inning by the Marauders defense. Senior center fielder Maliah Zillmer caught a high pop up and doubled off the Badger baserunner with a throw on a frozen rope to Zielinski at third that got the entire Mingus team fired up.
Runs came early, often and throughout for the Marauders; four straight hits to start the game opened a 3-0 lead.
Senior catcher Morgan Mabery switched places with sophomore shortstop Maddie Bejarano to score the first run after her leadoff double.
Zielinsk scored Mabery and junior starting pitcher Kaycee Williams singled to center field to complete the quick start.
Williams and the Marauders defense retired seven straight Badgers batters after hitting junior leadoff Audrey Lockling in the first, and only gave up a total of five hits while committing zero errors.
“Oh, I was extremely confident in them [the defense], they picked me up every single time and there was no doubt that they wouldn’t have the play,” Williams, who finished with three strikeouts, said.
The Mingus leadoff hitters got on base and the team scored at least two runs in every inning.
Mabery laid down a sacrifice bunt to score junior left fielder Bailey Brown in the second and Bejarano again scored on another Zielinski single.
Badger senior Kendall Schwartz came on in relief of sophomore starting pitcher Francesca Larson in the third inning, but did not succeed in slowing the Marauders bats.
“We hit a lot better today but it was the mentality of score every inning, we talked about that yesterday and did today,” Brown said. “So they lived up to what they set a goal to do and they made it work, and that’s what makes the difference in a ball game.”
Williams belted a double off of the center field fence and freshman designated player Jasmine Shults scored her with a double to the same spot. Freshman Dylan Sweeney replaced Shults on the base paths, eventually scoring the seventh run.
The Badgers scored their two runs in the fourth. Consecutive hits got the runs on base, which then crossed home on a pop fly double by senior pinch hitter Sunny Baker.
Mabery got her third RBI of the day to plate Bejarano, who had reached on an infield single to start the fourth. Then Zielinski knocked her first home run over the center field fence to make the score 10-2. Sweeney later scored Williams, who finished with three for three, for the 11th.
Brown singled and Bejarano got her fourth hit in four at bats, the last coming again in the infield. Up stepped Zielinski, who hit the walk off three-run home run to almost the same spot as the first.
“I just saw the ball coming in and I just hit and my team got me fired up so I just continued that,” Zielinski said. “I was just trying to score that run, we just needed one more, but three works, too.”
The margin of victory can prove influential when it comes time to crown the Grand Canyon Region champion; the difference in runs will be the tiebreaker in the event the two teams tie for first place.