During the preseason, Mingus Union High School head softball coach John Brown said that Bradshaw Mountain High School would be one of the team’s toughest opponents in the Grand Canyon Region.
The teams’ first matchup of the season on March 28 proved to be a back-and-forth contest in which both teams traded punches, with the Marauders [7-3, 4-2 Grand Canyon] coming back from down 6-2 to win 8-6.
“That’s what it’s going to take this year because every team we play is going to be a tough team and we have to play like we’re going to work,” Brown said. “I keep telling them they’re a blue collar team, they’ve got to work for every win they get ... so for them to come back shows that they believe they can do that.”
But the knockout blow turned out to be a self-inflicted one by the Bears, in the bottom of the sixth.
The score was tied at six with two outs and runners on second and third when Bradshaw Mountain senior pitcher McKaylee Dodge threw a wild pitch. Mingus sophomore third baseman Lacey Saravo scored the go-ahead run.
Then Bears senior catcher Katie Grandy removed her glove after returning the ball to Dodge, whose back was turned, and Brown alerted sophomore right fielder Delaney Hartnett.
Hartnett was met by Grandy in possession of the ball, but pulled off a Barry Sanders-esque juke around her and scored the final run.
Mingus landed the first punch in the second inning when junior pitcher Kaycee Williams hit a two-run home run to center field.
Bradshaw Mountain made its move the next inning by sending in six runs. Two singles precluded another home run, this time by Bears junior designated hitter Courtney Stahley, to take a 3-2 lead.
Bradshaw scored three more runs in the inning.
“It’s really hard to get up from that, but this team is known for things like that, and especially against rivals that we just played,” Marauders senior catcher Morgan Mabery said.
But Mingus countered right away to tie the game. Sophomore shortstop Maddie Bejarano dropped in a single before senior center fielder Maliah Zillmer reached on an error.
Mabery cut the deficit in half with a two-run double down the left field line. Two batters later Williams hit her second home run to knot the game at six.
“And it helped her on the mound, you know, when Kaycee hits well she pitches well, so it can’t get much better than that,” Brown said.
From then on the Marauders retired seven straight Bradshaw batters and 10 of their final 13, including a diving over-the-shoulder catch by Zillmer. Williams gave up three earned runs on nine hits with zero walks and five strikeouts for the complete game win.
“I just really wanted to win this game and I knew that I had to be on for my team, and even when they hit the ball it was where I wanted them to and my team backed me up every time,” Williams said.
Savaro replaced regular starting third baseman, junior Nikki Zielinski, who was out sick.
“But the fact that we have young girls that can come up and perform really helps a lot, because we wouldn’t be able to do it without them,” Mabery said.