Sunnyside advances in 5A elimination bracket after dominant win over Casteel

Sunnyside gave an indication early Thursday against visiting Casteel that it was not down on itself after Class of 2023 Missouri commit Marissa McCann of Willow Canyon shut out the Blue Devils on Tuesday in the 5A state playoffs.

Freshman standout pitcher Tatyana Vega struck out the side in the first and the Blue Devils immediately followed with a two-run rally in the bottom of the inning en route to a convincing 9-1 victory in an elimination-bracket game.

“It benefitted us,” senior infielder Briannay Galvez said about the 8-0 loss against McCann and top-seeded Willow Canyon. “We were on a high rise for a while. We were on a good winning streak, too (winning 10 of 11 games).

“That humbled us a little bit and it brought us back today and made us hungry for a ‘W.'”

No. 9 Sunnyside (23-9-1) will play on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. against the loser of Saturday’s game between No. 5 Lake Havasu and Willow Canyon. Both games are at the Rose Mofford Complex at Phoenix.

Sunnyside coach Pete Palomarez said his team will take a three-day break and return Monday to practice ahead of Tuesday’s game. The Blue Devils have played four games in the last eight days including two separate trips to the Phoenix area — Gilbert on Saturday and to Surprise to play Willow Canyon on Tuesday.

“The next few days we will rest our horses because Taty’s been throwing a lot of games and (catcher) Amerika (Lopez) has been behind the plate for most of these games,” Palomarez said. “I think the entire team, including the coaches, need to get away for a little bit and then come back on Monday hard so we can be ready to play on Tuesday.”

Sunnyside is able to continue its season and play on Tuesday thanks to another stellar performance by Vega, who along with her teammates showed some fortitude after McCann’s performance on Tuesday.

The right-hander struck out 11 batters and walked none while allowing only three hits in the seven-inning shutout.

Vega had similar numbers against Casteel on Thursday — 11 strikeouts with no walks with four hits allowed in her seven innings.

Striking out the side in the first inning “was really big,” Vega said, for the Blue Devils to seize the momentum from the start.

“The energy, it was up at that point,” said Vega, who is 17-3 with a 2.44 ERA and 177 strikeouts with 58 walks in 137 2/3 innings this season. “Our heads were in the game.”

Natalya Rivera, Sunnyside’s leadoff batter who went 4 for 4 with two runs and two RBIs, started the Blue Devils’ first inning with a single and later scored with one out on Lauryn Carbajal’s single. Carbajal’s subsequent stolen base forced a throwing error by the catcher, allowing Lopez (who earlier reached on an error) to score the second run.

Casteel cut the lead to 2-1 in the third inning on Reagen Terwilliger’s run-scoring double but Vega shut down the Colts and Sunnyside’s lineup began to produce thereafter.

Vega retired 12 of the last 15 batters she faced and did not allow a baserunner past second base in the last four innings.

Sunnyside increased its lead to 5-1 with three runs in the fifth with Rivera again igniting that rally with a double that scored Galvez, who led off with a walk.

“I was a little bit nervous for this game, a win-or-go-home type of game, but still, I did what I can do,” said Rivera, who is now batting .481 this season. “We didn’t let up at all (after the loss to Willow Canyon). I think with this game, we showed how much we wanted it more than them.”

After Lopez reached on a bunt single in the third, advancing Rivera to third, Vega connected on a single that scored Rivera. A fielding error in left field on that play allowed Lopez to score to increase the lead to 5-1.

Sunnyside loaded the bases in the fifth leading to a sacrifice fly hit by Carbajal that put the Blue Devils ahead 6-1.

Three more insurance runs were scored with one out in the sixth inning on Galvez’s two-run double followed by Rivera’s RBI single.

“We came in with confidence because I know we played Willow Canyon up to the fourth or fifth inning tight before we made a few mistakes,” Palomarez said. “I didn’t like the score, but I was satisfied with the way we played against them.

“We try to instill in them when you have a bad game you need to come back stronger in the next game and the opponent doesn’t matter. They were ready to play today.”


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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