Phoenix — It’s official; The Salpointe Catholic Lancers will be looking to defend the 4A Softball title for the third consecutive year in what will surely be a heated clash between longtime rivals. Defeating Mingus Union 8-3 on Thursday evening in Phoenix, the Lancers punched their ticket under first-year head coach and former Salpointe softball pitcher Tricia Gargian Sztan.
“They clearly are very excited,” Sztan said, as the team started taking a celebration video for Snapchat with her in the background.
While Salpointe was able to take a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a run scored by senior Yannixa Acuna, Mingus was not looking to give away anything more early on. Battling to set the tone, both teams played strong defense in the second inning to keep things tight.
Moving into the top of the third, junior Gianna Mares continued dominating from the mound, quickly picking up the three outs. As the Lancers returned to the dugout, the anticipation could be felt in the air as Salpointe was ready to get the bats going.
Leading things off for the Lancers was Acuna, who doubled to reach base yet again. Senior Logan Cole followed in the line-up, hitting an RBI-double to give Salpointe a 2-0 lead. Sophomore Anyssa Wild was next at bat, where she grounded out while helping advance Cole to third.
Things started to really crack for Mingus at this point, with senior Jordan Johnson walked to start off the downfall. Mares was up next where she was also walked, loading up the bases for Salpointe with only one out.
Junior Gianna Payne was next to bat, where she was hit by a pitch to walk Cole across home and extend the lead to 3-0. A little later in the lineup, junior Monique Bustamante was able to smack down a base hit to left field for a two-run RBI, extending the Lancers’ lead to 5-0 before the inning would come to a close.
Still reeling from the excitement of the previous inning, Salpointe struggled a bit defensively in the top of the fourth. After hitting the first batter with a pitch, the next batter was able to pick up a single off Mares. With no outs, Mingus was able to drive in a run on an RBI-double, bringing the Lancers to the mound for a meeting.
Utilizing the moment to refocus, Mares came back to pick up two consecutive ground outs and a strike out, but not before allowing two more runs to be scored to make it 5-3 midway through the fourth.
Acuna was first up to bat, yet again, to start the bottom of the inning, where an error fielding her bunt allowed her to reach second. The play of the game, though, came on Cole’s absolute bomb of a home run, driving up the score to 7-3 win no outs.
“We made some minor adjustments,” Sztan said. “Where she was throwing us outside, we really tried to capitalize on the right side of the field. We wanted to lay-off her rise ball and really see it in the zone.”
The excitement, however, quickly grew to concern following an injury to Wild at the plate. After hitting a ground ball to right field, she immediately dropped down to the ground screaming in pain while holding her leg. Wild was able to get up and walk off the field on her own, but was clearly in excruciating pain and did not return to the game.
Mares dialed in her focus for the fifth inning, where she quickly sent Mingus down in order.
Looking to tack on a safety run, Bustamante was able to get on base for the Lancers in the bottom of the fifth. An RBI-triple by junior Krista Martinez off two errors by Mingus allowed Bustamante to cross home, extending the lead to 8-3 before bringing an end to the fifth.
From there, the Lancers quickly were able to wrap things up to lock-in another trip to the championships. After securing the third out, the girls all ran towards the mound to start celebrating. After congratulating Mingus on the season, the girls gathered around with the coaching staff in left field as it was announced Canyon del Oro would be their opponent.
“For as long as I can remember, which is a while now, CDO is always our biggest rivalry,” Sztan said. “Even back in the 90’s, I feel like that rivalry has carried on until the present day. Every time we play CDO, and I’m sure they would say the same thing, there’s always a different atmosphere.”
Since it’s an all-Tucson game, the championship game will now take place at Rita Hillenbrand Stadium on the University of Arizona campus on Monday, May 16th at 5 p.m. The 4A state baseball championship will follow, with both the Lancers and Dorados squaring off at Hi Corbett at 7:30 p.m.
Brittany Bowyer is a freelance journalist who started her career as an intern for a small sports website back in 2015. Since then, she’s obtained her master’s degree in Sports Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU and is in her fourth year of covering various levels of sports across a broad range of platforms in Arizona. You can follow her on twitter @LittWithBritt