Sunnyside’s young talent symbolized by freshman Tatyana Vega nearly pitching no-hitter

Sunnyside is the 5A Southern champions with a 7-0 region record (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Winning region championships and qualifying for the state tournament is common for Sunnyside softball coach Pete Palomarez since he became head coach in 1998, but what is different nowadays is the Blue Devils’ method of success.

Rather than build toward a region title with an experienced lineup and pitching staff, Sunnyside is reaping the benefits of having quality young players already groomed by playing with club teams.

No better example of that is freshman pitcher Tatyana Vega, who was part of the highly successful Desert Thunder 14U Rosty team along with first baseman Soleil Ponce and outfielder Bianca Cobo.

Vega nearly pitched a no-hitter Tuesday night in Sunnyside’s 3-0 win over rival Desert View at Blue Devil Field. The no-hitter was broken up by a infield single with one out in the seventh inning by Kristal Leyva, whose hard-hit grounder was snagged by a diving Briannay Galvez at shortstop but the throw by Galvez to first base was not in time.

“The quality of the players are the same, only I believe nowadays with club ball they come in ready to play right away,” said Palomarez, who coached Sunnyside to the 2007 state championship. “They come in much younger and ready to move up to the varsity. In the past, we’ve had to work with them before we moved them up.

“Some of these kids are coming straight out of middle school into the high school ranks and they come ready to play.”

Sunnyside seniors Briannay Galvez, Damonique Escalante and Victoria Medina with their families as part of Senior Night (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Vega, who promoted from Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate only 11 months ago, finished with a one-hitter against the Jaguars while striking out eight and allowing two walks.

Also a talented shortstop who is a three-sport athlete (who excels in volleyball and basketball), Vega is one of the top pitchers in the state despite her youth. She is 11-1 with a 1.78 ERA for the Blue Devils, who have clinched the 5A Southern title with a 7-0 record and are 17-8-1 overall.

Vega has recorded 109 strikeouts with 37 walks in 86 2/3 innings. She is also batting .413 with three home runs and 17 RBIs.

“My team, my defense, my offense — they’ve been helping me a lot getting runs, making plays,” Vega said when asked about the key to her success early in her high school career. “And my catcher, especially my catcher Amerika (Lopez). She helps me a lot.”

Vega is one of four freshmen on the team that has only three seniors, all of whom were honored as part of Senior Night on Tuesday.

Galvez, Damonique Escalante and Victoria Medina were celebrated in a unique ceremony that included each of them walking with their families and greeting members of their team at each base before heading home to hugs from the coaching staff.

Palomarez’s team also has three sophomores and four juniors.

Molding the team together through its youth is a task that has been achieved by Palomarez and his staff that includes Jessica Pesquiera, Okzwoualdo Gonzalez, Ozzy Carbajal and Ruben Cazares.

“It’s timely defense, solid defense and unity,” Palomarez said for the reason why Sunnyside won its third region title in the last 12 years. “The coaches do an outstanding job during our practices and they work hard. Each and every one of the assistant coaches works very hard with our girls.

“Sometimes we have to talk with them and make them understand exactly what we are asking them to do because they come in sometimes a little confused. They play nine months out of the year but they don’t have a chance to develop their skills because they’re always playing. It doesn’t give them a chance to sit down and get explanations as far as what they need to do to make themselves better.”

Desert View pitcher Khandis Johnson (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

The pitching duel between Vega and Desert View’s Khandis Johnson made for a competitive game with Sunnyside manufacturing runs in the third, fourth and sixth innings.

Johnson scattered five hits in six innings with one strikeout and four walks.

Ponce scored the first run after walking with two outs, stealing second and aggressively running home on Natalya Rivera’s single to center field.

Lauryn Carbajal, a sophomore centerfielder, was a catalyst for the runs in the fourth and sixth innings after singling in each inning and later scoring on sacrifice flies to the outfield. She stole third base to set up the run in the sixth. She finished 2 for 2 with two runs.

“It was obviously our rivals so I knew I had to play on top,” Carbajal said. “I made my adustments (at the plate). I just had to focus on the pitcher and everything she was throwing. Making adjustments are really important for winning ball games, because we all need that run.

“I think that especially my stolen base helped us a lot because that scored us the third run. Being aggressive overall really helped us in this game.”

Sunnyside concludes its regular season with a game at Nogales on Thursday while Desert View (10-10, 3-4) has three games left, first with Cienega on Thursday at home.

NOTE: Tucson High School and Pusch Ridge earned their respective baseball region titles on Tuesday. The Badgers are the 6A Desert Southwest champions and the Lions won the 3A South.


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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