Comeback Kids: Marana Juniors rally again from large deficit in West Regional opening-round win

Marana Juniors All-Stars break from a huddle after beating La Grande (Ore.) in the opening round of the West Regional tournament at Arthur Pack Regional Park (Javier Morales)

When Marana trailed by eight runs Saturday in the third inning against La Grande (Ore.) in the opening round of the West Regional Juniors All-Stars Softball Tournament, the team apparently was in a comfort zone.

Marana won the District 5 championship two weeks ago over Thornydale in two games of the best-of-three series by rallying from down four runs in the seventh inning in Game 1 and then overcoming a 10-0 deficit in Game 2.

Make it three straight remarkable comebacks after Marana’s 18-8 win in five innings at Arthur Pack Regional Park over La Grande, which appeared to be overwhelmed by the morning heat in addition to Marana’s lineup, allowing 16 runs in the fourth and fifth innings.

“The girls know what they can do and they go out and do it,” Marana manager Sam Mills said. “It’s fun to watch but they need to take it easy on my nerves.”

Addi Lee, Aubrianna Gray and Bella Sayre combined to drive in 11 runs, nine of them in the fourth and fifth innings to lead the charge.

Gray, who went 4 for 4 with three runs and three RBIs, also pitched three scoreless innings while allowing only one hit and no walks with three strikeouts.

Her RBI single in the third scored Marana’s first run to cut the lead to 8-1. That’s when the momentum started to shift.

“We take a while to get started sometimes, but when we get started, we just knock the crap out of it,” Gray said. “We get there.”

Aubrianna Gray was effective in the circle and dominant at the plate for Marana (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Lee, who drove in six runs while going 3 for 3 with a run, forced in the second run in the third inning with an RBI single.

In the fourth inning, Marana rallied for six runs to tie the game at 8 before La Grande could record an out.

Sayre (2 for 4 with four runs and two RBIs) and Lee had RBI singles and Gray and Cadence Beck each drove in runs with doubles in the rally.

“It just gives us confidence to push through and win our next games,” Sayre said of the dramatic turnaroud against La Grande.

The knockout was a 10-run fifth inning without La Grande recording an out that included RBI singles by Audrey Verdugo, Sayre and Gray. Lee produced the walk-off two-run single for the run-rule win.

“We usually start down but I knew that we could come back and I was expecting to get a walk-off. It is what it is,” said Lee, whose brother Emmitt Lee led Marana Majors to the District 5 championship with a two-run home run in the championship game against Canyon View.

“Once we get one run, once we get going, we don’t stop,” Addi continued.

Marana finished with 16 hits with eight of the players in the starting lineup registering at least one hit.

La Grande’s Kallin Hornack had five RBIs off two doubles in the first two innings to lead her team to the 8-0 margin.

Mills did not see any panic from his team despite that torrid start by La Grande, which is located between the Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman national forests in eastern Oregon.

The high temperature in La Grande on Saturday was 84 degrees. It was over 100 degrees by the time Saturday’s game ended at 10:30 a.m.

The heat and Marana’s will to win were tough to overcome.

“It’s trust; they love each other,” Mills said about Marana’s ability stay confident and calm in what are dire situations to most. “They’re like a sisterhood, just a tight-knit group. They support each other. They don’t get down.

“It’s just neat to see in the dugout the positive mental attitude and the excitement they have.”

Marana next plays at 10:30 a.m. Sunday against an opponent to be dettermined.


Thornydale pitcher Kaylee Moussette (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Thornydale was competitive with Federal Way until the team from Washington rallied for six runs in the bottom of the sixth to pull away.

Thornydale, dominant in the state tournament last week going 4-0 for the title, cut the lead to 2-1 against Federal Way in the fourth inning on Elizabeth Lujan’s sacrifice fly to right field.

Lujan also had one of the three hits Thornydale mustered against Federal Way pitchers Audrey DeViney and Claire Foster. DeViney allowed one hit in her four innings with eight strikeouts and no walks. Foster pitched the last three innings, allowing two hits and a walk with three strikeouts.

DeViney also had two hits and drove in a run, as did Hayden McCabe.

Thornydale will play an elimination-bracket game at 6 p.m. Saturday against an opponent to be determined.

“Hopefully, we’ll wake up and the girls will keep their heads up,” Thornydale manager Venessa Moussette said. “We told the girls to take it one game at a time. It’s do or die tonight. … Hopefully they bring their A game. They know it’s up to them, if they want it or if they don’t.”

Thornydale has the experience to draw from rebounding from losing the district series to Marana to winning the state championship. Marana did not play in the state tournament because it is hosting the West Regional.

“We tell the girls to put on their business suits; it’s all business from here on out,” Moussette said. “They have to know how they want it to go.”


Sunnyside 16, Alaska 6 (6)
Nogales vs. S. California, 1 p.m.

Sunnyside improved to 3-0 in the regional tournament by run-ruling Alaska in six innings.

Josue Espinoza hit two home runs and produced five runs while going 3 for 4 with three runs.

Santos Lopez went 3 for 4 with two triples, a run and two RBIs, and Luis Torres hit a two-run double.

Torres also pitched strongly in 4 2/3 innings of relief, scattering five hits with two earned runs to go with nine strikeouts and two walks.

Hawaii 7, Nogales 0

Nogales was limited to two hits (by Roberto Hernandez and Ralph Felix) in its loss to Hawaii, sending it to the elimination bracket.

Willcox vs. Cactus Foothills, 6:00 p.m. (Championship)

Federal Way (WA) 8, Marana 1
Marana 18, La Grande (OR) 8 (5)
Marana vs. TBD, 6 p.m. (Elimination)


Sunnyside vs. S. California, 10 a.m.

Marana vs. TBD, 10:30 a.m.


Nogales vs. TBD, 4 p.m. (Elimination)

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