PHOENIX — After getting past former region foe Yuma Cibola on Wednesday night in the Class 6A state tournament, No. 12 Tucson now faces the daunting task of having to beat top seed Phoenix Pinnacle on Friday night at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex.
“Hey, you’ve got to play the game,” said Tucson coach Bert Otero after the Badgers’ 6-3 win over Cibola, which was in the same 6A region with Tucson the previous couple of years.
“We just have to keep the kids up, which is not hard to do. These kids, their minds are in the right place. That’s the nice thing about them. They’ve been gritting it all year. When they turned that corner, they saw light at the end of the tunnel. I’m excited about that because it’s their time.”
Tucson beats Yuma Cibola as Arizona commit Carlie Scupin saves the game with two strikeouts in the seventh. Badgers advance to play Pinnacle Friday at 5:15 here. Beat No. 1 Pinnacle twice and Badgers are in 6A state title game Monday. pic.twitter.com/XicTDRoogR
After a 2-7 start, Tucson won 15 straight games before Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss against Pinnacle (24-3). The Badgers traveled home and did not return to campus until 1 a.m.
They were back on the road in mid-afternoon for the 6:30 p.m. elimination-bracket game against Cibola and the Badgers (18-8) looked up to the task from the beginning.
They rallied for two runs with two outs in the first after junior Carlie Scupin — an Arizona commit — was intentionally walked for the first of five times. Kelli Samorano scored Scupin with a double and Samorano came home on Melina Silvein‘s single.
Tucson's Carlie Scupin talks about her 5 intentional walks & being able to shut door as stopper for Badgers in the seventh with two K's in the 6-3 win over Cibola. Badgers next play No. 1 Pinnacle on Friday in a 6A semifinal game. They must beat the Pioneers twice to reach finals pic.twitter.com/Y4xPoseaNV
The lead went to 3-0 in the second on a sacrifice fly by Karina Somoza, plating the pinch-runner for starting pitcher Lisette Urquidez (who singled with one out).
Alyssa Trejo lead off the third with a single and scored on Marina Chacon‘s double. Chacon later scored on an error to increase Tucson’s lead to 5-0. The Trejo-Chacon combination was a telling one as Trejo after the game carried Chacon, who sprained her ankle in the sixth scoring at the plate to put the Badgers ahead 6-1.
“I kind of heard it pop, so I’m pretty sure I sprained my ankle,” said Chacon, a freshman who went 1 for 3 with two runs. “I don’t plan on being out for long but I will come back soon.”
Productive Tucson freshman Marina Chacon, who suffered a sprained left ankle and is carried by Alyssa Trejo, talks about her injury and her mindset possibly having to sit Friday's game or games vs. Pinnacle. pic.twitter.com/q028ZvDT6S
If Chacon is a spectator for the potential two games Friday against Pinnacle on Friday she will be fine with cheering her team. She had a healthy disposition about the injury, which is not surprising to Otero.
“That young lady has no fear,” Otero said. “She loves the game. … If there’s any way she can be on the field Friday, she will be.”
After Cibola rallied for two runs in the fifth to cut the lead to 6-3, Ana Rodriguez — normally Tucson’s ace who came into relief — and Scupin closed the door. Scupin, who moved to the circle from first base, struck out two of the four batters she faced in the seventh to pick up the save.
Cibola’s last 12 batters in the fifth through seventh innings did not get past second against Rodriguez or Scupin.
“I didn’t know I was coming to close … I knew I had to attack the zone and finish up the game,” Scupin said.
She said about her five intentional walks: “I can’t really control what they’re going to do but the team obviously picked me up … We all pick each other up so it kind of worked out for us either way.”
Trejo, a third baseman who finished 2 for 4 with a run, kept the smaller Chacon on her back during the postgame talk by Otero and his staff. She even carried Chacon during an interview after the game.
A fitting touch with Scupin’s comment that the Badgers “pick each other up.”
Alyssa Trejo had a couple of big hits for Tucson in the 6-3 win over Cibola. She not only helped carry the Badgers she carried injured teammate Marina Chacon afterward. pic.twitter.com/o5CIVsDcrp
“I think we can do it, honestly,” said Trejo when asked about the challenge of having to beat Pinnacle twice Friday. “Last game it was 2-1 and we left a lot of runners on base. If we execute every time and everybody’s got their sticks on and the defense is solid … hopefully …”
Momentum and confidence is on Tucson’s side even though the lone loss in a 15-1 stretch is against Pinnacle, which has yet to lose in the playoffs.
“They feel like they can play with anybody,” Otero said of his team. “We came up short (against Pinnacle). The kids know that. They know what it’s going to take to take this over the top and they’re excited.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.