Dorado Softball Classic: Saturday’s quarterfinal matchups set

The Elite Eight of the Dorado Softball Classic at Lincoln Regional Park is set for Saturday with the first pitches of the four quarterfinal games starting at 10 a.m.

The games:

Buena vs. Sabino (Field 7)

Tucson vs. Mesa Mountain View (Field 8)

Desert Vista vs. Marana Mountain View (Field 5)

Marana vs. Canyon del Oro (Field 6)

The semifinals will start at noon and the championship game at 2 p.m.

Tucson High, 4-0-1 with a tie a result of a game with Cactus Shadows on Friday night ending 3-3, will face a Mesa Mountain View team that defeated Salpointe 4-2 on Friday.

The loss snapped the Lancers’ 29-game winning streak dating to the shortened 2020 season because of COVID-19.

Salpointe went 24-0 last year when it won the 4A state championship and began this season winning four games in the Dorado Classic before facing Mesa Mountain View and its ace pitcher Hina Huber.

Huber, bound for BYU, has played for the Oro Valley Suncats. She struck out 12 batters with no walks and allowed only four hits in her complete-game peformance against the Lancers.

The Badgers, under first-year coach Chacho Morales, have featured reliable pitching with sophomore Jorgina Gant, senior Genesis Zazueta and junior Ivangelina Cota.

Gant, in her first full season at the varsity level, has two wins, including Friday’s 4-3 victory over Rio Rico that advanced the Badgers to the quarterfinal round. She struck out four and allowed three hits and one earned run in 5 2/3 innings. That followed her five-inning one-hitter with eight strikeouts in a 13-0 win over El Paso Bel Air.

She is 2-0 with a 0.66 ERA.

“I felt pretty calm just throwing strikes and having my defense backed me up has really helped and kept me calm,” Gant said.

Her mother Antonia was a standout catcher at Salpointe when Phil Gruensfelder coached the Lancers. Her father Maricio was an all-state guard with Coolidge who led the Bears to the 1997-98 state title.

“They’ve been hard on me so it helps me build that mentality to clear the mechanism and be calm and trusting and do what you can do,” Jorgina said.

Morales mentioned that the Badgers have played fundamentally sound to start undefeated through five games in the Dorado Classic.

“Collectively, as team, the girls believe in themselves,” Morales said. “They have a lot of confidence. That’s what has got us through in a lot of adversity.”

Morales welcomes the opportunity to face a quality pitcher like Huber if she is in the circle against the Badgers.

“To see good pitching (will) get us ready for state,” he said. “When we get to state, that’s all we’re going to see. The 6A is one of the top division that we’re going to see. That’s what we’re going to be seeing from here on out.

“As good of a team that we are, that’s going to help us get prepared. For us to see that is what I want our girls to see so we can work off of that and help us get better and see what we need to do.”

Tucson’s Jorgina Gant, with coach Chacho Morales and catcher Yasmin Villa, has allowed one earned run in her first 10 2/3 innings of the season (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

While Jorgina Gant is a developing talent in the circle, Sabino ace Riley Nielson has established her mark in the state after leading the Sabercats to the 3A state title last season.

The Sabercats responded with two impressive wins on Friday, including a 9-3 win over Ironwood Ridge with Nielson in the circle, after losing to Salpointe 12-0 in pool play Thursday night.

Sabino beat Rincon/University 24-5 before facing Ironwood Ridge.

Nielson, who has signed with Southern Utah, had four runs against Rincon/University to help her sister Avery, a freshman who started the game in the circle. Avery did not allow hit in two innings and she struck out four.

Riley scattered four hits in six innings and recorded three strikeouts in the win over Ironwood Ridge. She also went 2 for 3 with three RBIs as the third batter in the lineup.

Riley wants a championship in the Dorado Classic and again in the 3A state playoffs at season’s end “to prove Sabino can play with anybody.”

Cyndi Cubillas replaced Kyle Howell as Sabino’s head coach after the Sabercats won the state title.

Nielson has the opportunity to win three state titles in four years (the 2020 season was cut short because of COVID-19) playing for three different coaches — Chris Stainer (2019), Howell (2021) and Cubillas this year.

Cubillas is in her third season in Sabino’s program, the previous two as an assistant, and that familiarity has benefited the Sabercats.

“She knows me. She knows what I’m good at. She knows what I have to work on,” Riley said of Cubillas. “She makes the game fun and I’m happy for her. I’m excited that she’s our coach.”

Cubillas liked her team’s resiliency after the loss to Salpointe on Thursday.

“I think it’s important for the girls to be able to know what they can do,” Cubillas said. “I think it proves to them as a program when they come together and fight and they play Sabino standard ball then great things happen. It all comes together.”


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. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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