Tucson High tried to climb its way out of a four-run deficit against visiting Chandler Basha but the Badgers could not quite get over the hump, losing 4-3 Wednesday in the 6A state playoffs winners bracket game.
As the No. 2 seed, Tucson (25-5-1) will stay home Thursday and play No. 14 Phoenix Sunnyslope (29-4) in an elimination-bracket game.
The Badgers can gain solace knowing they don’t have to bus to Phoenix on Thursday on the day after a loss by virtue of their high seed they earned throughout the season.
“It’s definitely big (playing at home),” Tucson first-year coach Chacho Morales said. “We got the support from our fans and the community out here cheering the kids on. We appreciate everybody coming out and we just hope to put on a better show and have a better outcome.”
Umpire calls the Tucson baserunner out on the attempted squeeze. Basha holds on to 1-0 lead going to the fourth. pic.twitter.com/bcIbNNHB8K
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) May 4, 2022
No. 7 Basha (21-9) will play No. 11 Mesa Red Mountain (23-8) in a winners-bracket third round game at Fiesta Sports Complex in Mesa on Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
Basha’s three-run fourth inning, fueled by Mackenzie Manygoats’ RBI single and Adriana Gomez’s two-run double, put the Bears ahead 4-0.
Tucson’s Jiselle Nuñez, a sophomore No. 5 hitter in the lineup, led off the bottom of the fourth inning with her sixth home run of the season. During her celebration approaching home plate, she jumped and landed awkwardly on her left knee.
Tucson 3B Jiselle Nunez hit a home run to cut Basha’s lead to 4-1 in the fourth. Unfortunately it appears she injured her left knee during the celebration and had to be helped off. Hope it is not serious. pic.twitter.com/deM3vicAQL
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) May 5, 2022
She had to be helped off the field and was replaced at third base by freshman Claudeana Lesley for the rest of the game.
No official word on the injury but it appears likely that Nuñez’s season over. Her knee was heavily bandaged with ice applied and she wore a brace.
“She’s just been an RBI machine for us so losing her is big,” Morales said of Nuñez, who has 22 RBIs. “The power that she brings and the timely hitting that she’s been consistent with all year for us is something that we’re just going to have to keep working through and find the next girl to step up.”
Tucson managed to continue rallying in the fourth with Kayla Miranda walking (replaced by pinch-runner Zarina Ferriera) and Sofie Trejo hitting a single.
Madeline Ugalde entered in relief for Basha at that time. After a strikeout, she walked Jaliyah Grigsby to load the bases.
Yasmin Villa followed with a deep sacrifice fly to center field to score Ferreira to cut the lead to 4-2.
Ugalde then recorded a strikeout to end the threat with runners on second and third.
From there, Tucson starter Ivangelina Cota and Ugalde became engaged in a pitcher’s duel.
Cota retired nine of the last 12 batters she faced, not allowing a baserunner past second base in the fifth through seventh innings.
Ugalde retired nine straight batters before Villa connected on her team-high eighth home run of the season, a shot that banged off the scoreboard in centerfield, to cut the lead to 4-3 to lead off the seventh.
Tucson catcher Yasmine Villa hit her 8th HR of the season, a shot off the scoreboard in the seventh, but the Badgers fell short 4-3 against Basha in a 6A winners bracket game. THS hosts Hamilton in an elimination-bracket game tomorrow at 4 p.m. pic.twitter.com/4vzWaSzgar
— Javier Morales (@JavierJMorales) May 5, 2022
“I went into a slump a little towards the end of the season, not trusting myself,” said Villa, who is not the tallest player on the team but she often plays the biggest.
“Just taking extra reps after practice and going in and working on the tee, getting extra reps, asking the coach, ‘Hey, can you throw me a couple, just a bucket,’ and for me, staying short. I can’t take long swings or long strides like everybody else, so understanding my zone and what I have to do to execute my plan.”
Ugalde retired the next three batters to the end the game. She allowed only one hit (Villa’s home run) while striking out eight and walking two in her four innings.
“Getting that big hit when we needed to, we just couldn’t do it,” Morales said. “(Ugalde) mixed it up, in and out. We should have stayed more disciplined and waited for our pitch and see the ball a little bit better. It seemd at times we were just guessing.”
Cota scattered 10 hits in seven innings with two strike outs and no walks in her complete-game effort.
Neither team committed an error but Morales pointed out that a couple of balls hit to his outfielders could have been caught but were dropped for hits off their outstretched gloves.
“Basha had some good timely hits when they needed them; they definitely had us on our heels defensively,” Morales said. “If we make a couple of plays here and there, it’s a different ballgame.”
FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER!
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.