Sitting alone with his wife in the enclosed club seating area at Hillenbrand Stadium, Mike Candrea saw elements of his successful Arizona program on the field with Salpointe playing for another Class 4A state championship Tuesday night.
Salpointe coach Amy Baray-Rocha played for Candrea in 1999 and the niece of former Wildcat Marcie Aguilar — a member of Candrea’s first NCAA title team in 1991 — played catcher for the Lancers.
Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage had the game-winning RBI in the eighth inning on a sacrifice fly to the second baseman in shallow right field. Logan Cole, who went 2 for 5 with two RBIs for the Lancers, raced home and slid before the tag to give Salpointe a 6-5 victory over Glendale Cactus. It is the Lancers’ second consecutive state title.
“I feel honored that Coach Candrea gave me this moment with my players and my staff and my parents because for a lot of the young ladies, this is the only time that they get to play on a field like this,” Baray-Rocha said, standing on the left field grass of Hillenbrand after the Lancers’ victory celebration.
A few feet behind her, pictured on the left field wall, is Marcie Aguilar with four other celebrating Wildcats as part of Candrea’s first NCAA Women’s College World Series championship team in 1991.
“U of A is something special and to have (the game) in our backyard, to be able to grow up seeing softball at this field, we’re very privileged to have (Candrea) as a mentor and a coach, as just a great human being who loves the game,” said Baray-Rocha. “I appreciate everything he does.”
Anjolee — who along with ace Alyssa Aguilar (no relation) proved to be an effective battery against Cactus — proudly pointed out where her aunt is pictured on the outfield wall standing behind the NCAA title trophy.
After Tuesday night’s game, Anjolee lofted the Arizona state championship trophy in the air in celebration just a few feet away.
“It’s just a great feeling being in your hometown and having your fan base come and being able to support us and having a bigger crowd than the opposing team because they’re from somewhere else,” Anjolee said about the chance to play at Hillenbrand like her aunt.
Marcie Aguilar could not stay for the postgame celebration after the extra-inning affair. She had to take her son to basketball practice for his club team. Such is life in an athletic family based on principle.
“Anjolee is by far one of the most selfless players I ever coached,” Baray-Rocha said of her junior catcher. “To be our starting second baseman the last two years and to put the (catching) gear on for the first time in a Lancer uniform without even questioning it, saying, ‘I got it, whatever you need,’ to me that defines what every coach wishes to have in a player.
“When she goes to the next level, that team is getting something special because that’s what she is … she has a heart of a champion.”
Replay of Anjolee Aguilar-Beaucage's walk-off sacrifice fly to shallow right field, scoring freshman Logan Cole in Salpointe's 6-5 win in eight innings over Glendale Cactus for the 4A state title. pic.twitter.com/7ofVcOHmlO
Anjolee committed to play for Grand Canyon University when she was a freshman with the Lancers. Her sister, former Salpointe standout Brianna Aguilar-Beaucage, is a junior pitcher/utility player for the Antelopes.
They come from a strong baseball/softball lineage. Anjolee’s mother, Bettina, is a member of the All-Time Academic All-Big Ten Softball Team (Ohio State). Uncle Mark Aguilar starred at Pima Community College and was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers.
Marcie Aguilar was a standout at Rincon before her Arizona days. She is listed in the Encyclopedia of Women and Baseball from her time with the Colorado Silver Bullets.
Salpointe ace Alyssa Aguilar comments on her state title win in 8 innings over Cactus. She finished with 10 strikeouts in the complete-game win. pic.twitter.com/eGCtEwA4he
Anjolee not only got it done with the game-winning sacrifice fly to shallow right field against Cactus, she was part of Alyssa Aguilar’s complete-game 10-strikeout performance playing behind the plate.
“Really, it was a team effort,” said Anjolee, true to her selfless ways, as Baray-Rocha indicated. “We all have heart, we fought hard all season long for this and we just came out on top.
“Last year (winning the state title) was different. This year we came in a lot more confident because we knew how it felt and it just adds on. It’s bigger.”
Scary thought for Salpointe’s opponents and blissful one for Baray-Rocha — Anjolee and Alyssa Aguilar are two of 20 players who return next season. The Lancers lose only two seniors — first baseman Malaea Rocha and shortstop Diana Miranda-Montano.
“For the past three to four years, we were led by the same leaders every year, and this year, this team had to figure it out,” said Baray-Rocha of her young team that finished 25-4. “Hats off to our upper-classmen, our two seniors and a couple of our juniors, who really stepped in and helped them figure out what Lancer softball is about.
“There’s only one way to go and that’s 110 percent every day.”
The best performer on the diamond against Cactus was a freshman — Cole, the leadoff hitter and second baseman. She not only excelled on the plate and base paths, but was strong defensively. Her spectacular over-the-shoulder catch while running fast to shallow right field with no outs in the seventh prevented a potentially big inning for Cactus, forcing runners to stay at third and first base and Salpointe up 5-4.
The Cobras managed to score and tie the game with a sacrifice fly to left field and Alyssa Aguilar struck out the last batter to end the threat.
After junior center fielder Kayla Gonzales led off the eighth inning with a single, Cole hit a deep fly ball to the warning track to left field that bounced off the left fielder’s glove for an error. That put Gonzales at third and Cole at second. Gonzales was then forced out at home on an fielder’s choice with Cole moving to third on the play.
Anjolee followed with her walk-off RBI sacrifice fly to shallow right field, plating Cole with the winning run.
“We just never give up, we go all out, give everything we’ve got all the time,” she said. “That just worked out perfectly.”
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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.