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Kaitlyn Anderson sends Cienega to 5A championship game in walk-off fashion in the bottom of the 12th

Kaitlyn Anderson (Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

No. 3 Cienega (28-6) beat No. 6 Centennial 2-1 in 12 innings late Friday night to secure a spot in the 5A championship game where the Bobcats will face No. 8 Ironwood Ridge (27-9). If you knew anything about this level of softball, you knew these two teams were destined to meet in the final after the playoff brackets were released but both squads got to the championship game in remarkably different ways.

The Nighthawks outscored the “top-ranked” 5A team, Arcadia, 21-3 in the playoffs while outdistancing all of their playoff opponents 36-3 for an average margin of victory of 9-1. Well, actually .75 runs.

The Bobcats, on the other hand, needed eight innings to get past No. 14 Sahuaro 5-4 in the first round, before taking care of Centennial 7-1 in the second round and No. 7 Verrado 10-0 in the third round. Centennial came back from the elimination bracket to even the score with the Bobcats, 2-1, in the first semifinal game on Thursday night to set up a winner-take-all game Friday night at the Rose Mofford Complex in Phoenix.

As mentioned before, the second game between the two teams turned into an epic battle that ended three hours after it started with Cienega senior Kaitlyn Anderson coming up with a walk-off single to end the game in favor of the Bobcats.

Kenzie Carson started the bottom of the 12th off with a single but sophomore standout Mariah Lopez hit into a fielder’s choice to erase Carson for the first out. Faith McLaughlin came in to run for Lopez and Blaise Biringer singled to put two on for Anderson.

Lopez got the start for the Bobcats and Jacie Hammergren threw a couple of late inning before Lopez returned to close out the game. Lopez picked up seven strikeouts in the win and she was paced by an early Bobcat run after Breezy Hayward knocked in Biringer to put the Bobcats up 1-0 in the bottom of the first.

That run held up until Dren Meginnis hit a solo shot in the top of the fifth to tie the game up.

Grand Canyon commit Sydnie Sahhar stopped the Bobcats on Thursday night and she did the same for most of Friday night with 10 strikeouts. Biringer went 3-6, Anderson went 2-6, and Hayward went 3-5 to lead the Bobcats.

The Bobcats won the 5A Southern Region by two games over the Nighthawks but the two teams split their region games. The championship game will be the rubber match.

SOUTHERN ARIZONA CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS

Canyon del Oro (9)
1991: 5A (Kathy McQuown)
2001: 5A (Dee Dinota)
2005: 5A (Kelly Fowler)
2007: 4A-I (Amy Swiderski)
2008: 4A-I (Amy Swiderski)
2009: 4A-I (Amy Swiderski)
2011: 4A-I (Kelly Fowler)
2012: D-II (Stephanie Nicholson)
2017: 4A (Kelly Fowler)

San Manuel (9)
1977: 4A (Sheila Baize)
1979: 4A (Sheila Baize)
1980: 4A (Sheila Baize)
1981: 3A (Sheila Baize)
1982: 3A (Sheila Baize)
1990: 3A (Jeff Rupright)
1994: 3A (Jeff Rupright)
2013: D4 (Deanne Brewer)
2014: D4 (Deanne Brewer)

Sahuaro (8)
1984: 5A (Jim Higgins)
1985: 5A (Jim Higgins)
1988: 5A (Billy Lopez)
1989: 4A/5A (Billy Lopez)
1991: 5A (Billy Lopez)
1992: 4A (Billy Lopez)
1993: 4A (Billy Lopez)
2001: 4A (Billy Lopez)

Benson (5)
2006: 2A (Shad Housley)
2008: 2A (Shad Housley)
2011: 2A (Manny Ellsworth)
2017: 2A (Yogi Wilson)
2018: 2A (Yogi Wilson)

Santa Cruz (5)
1979: 3A (Rosie Starks)
1980: 3A (Rosie Starks)
2000: 3A (Ernie Montijo)
2006: 3A (Andrea Reyes)
2008: 3A (Andrea Reyes)

Flowing Wells (4)
1984: 4A (Debbie Cutrer)
1999: 5A (Armando Quiroz)
2000: 5A (Armando Quiroz)
2002: 5A (Armando Quiroz)

Cienega (3)
2010: 4A-I (Eric Tatham)
2015: D-II (Eric Tatham)
2017: 5A (Eric Tatham)

Sahuarita (3)
1999: 3A (Chris Fanning)
2011: 4A-II (Chris Fanning)
2018: 3A (Chris Fanning)

Desert Christian (2)
1998: 1A (Bill Moten)
1999: 1A (Gerald Dawson)

Ironwood Ridge (2)
2014: D-II (Rich Alday)
2016: D-II (Rich Alday)

Palo Verde Christian/Pusch Ridge (2)
1997: 1A (Tom Armour)
2012: D-IV (Bob Vance)

Pueblo (2)
1990: 4A (Lisa Pina)
2016: D-IV (Curtis Ruiz)

Empire (2)
2015: D-III (Shannon Woolridge)
2017: 3A (Shannon Woolridge)

Sabino (2)
1991: 4A (Bill Belt)
2005: 4A (Galen Paton)

Salpointe (2)
1993: 5A (Stacy Hill Iveson)
1996: 5A (Phil Gruensfelder)

Bowie/San Simon (1)
1990: 1A (Mike Peterson)

Catalina Foothills (1)
2016: D-III (Mark Stevens)

Desert View (1)
2000: 4A (Bert Otero)

Rincon (1)
2002: 4A (Russ Proctor)

Santa Rita (1)
1980: 5A (Jan Dunlap)

Sunnyside (1)
2007: 5A-II (Pete Palomarez)

Willcox (1)
2010: 1A (Mike Patterson)

FRIDAY, MAY 11

SOFTBALL: 5A SEMIFINAL at Rose Mofford
No. 3 Cienega 2, No. 6 Centennial 1 (12)

SATURDAY, MAY 12

BASEBALL: 4A SEMIFINAL at HoHoKam
No. 1 Nogales vs. No. 5 Sunrise Mountain, 6:30 p.m.

BASEBALL: 3A SEMIFINALS
No. 1 Sabino vs. No. 12 Empire, 6:30 p.m. at Amphi
No. 3 Sahuarita vs. No. 2 Casteel, 6:30 p.m. at Surprise

MONDAY, MAY 14

SOFTBALL: 5A CHAMPIONSHIP at ASU
No. 3 Cienega vs. No. 8 Ironwood Ridge, 5:30 p.m.

BASEBALL: 4A CHAMPIONSHIP at Hi Corbett
No.2 Catalina Foothills vs. Nogales or Sunrise Mountain, 7 p.m.

BASEBALL: 3A CHAMPIONSHIP at HoHoKam
No. 1 Sabino/No. 12 Empire vs. No. 3 Sahuarita/No. 2 Casteel, 4 p.m.

TUESDAY, MAY 15

SOFTBALL: 4A CHAMPIONSHIP at ASU
No. 5 Salpointe vs. No. 3 Cactus, 6:30 p.m.

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Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and he was awarded the Ray McNally Award in 2017 and he has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on AZPreps365.com. Andy is the Southern Arizona voting member of the Ed Doherty Award, recognizing the top football player in Arizona, and he was named a Local Hero by the Tucson Weekly for 2016. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com

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