No. 1 Sabino continues to roll behind power of Class of 2026 phenom Lilly Mann

Sabino’s Lilly Mann, who hit two towering home runs in Monday’s win over San Miguel, is one of the top freshmen softball players in the state (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Lilly Mann’s 10 home runs as a freshman with three regular-season games remaining and a potential deep run in the 3A state playoffs ahead for No. 1 Sabino, calls to mind the power and promise Carlie Scupin showed at the same age at Tucson High in 2017.

Scupin, now an Arizona sophomore first baseman, finished with 13 home runs and 42 RBIs while batting .551 as a freshman at Tucson High.

Mann’s numbers after belting two home runs with six RBIs in Monday’s 20-0 win over San Miguel in four innings: 10 home runs, 48 RBIs and is batting .547 — all team-best marks.

Lilly Mann is on pace for more than 40 home runs in her career (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

The top-ranked Sabercats, the three-time defending 3A state champs, improved to 24-3 overall and 6-1 in the 3A South. San Miguel, playing its first full varsity season since 2019, is 2-9 and 1-5.

“My club coaches have been pushing me really hard, so they kind of expect this from me,” said Mann, who physically is imposing at 5-foot-10 despite her youth. “It’s just been a good experience. I love the girls. They really push me to be this best I can be.”

Mann’s club background is with Rogue Fastpitch Club, a Phoenix-based operation that included Arizona’s Allie Skaggs and Sophia Carroll in 2019.

Mann is tied with Rowan Asanovich of Laveen Heritage Academy for the most home runs hit by a freshman in the state this season. Her 48 RBIs trails only the 50 produced by Bullhead City Mohave Accelerated’s Kennedy Lamb among freshmen.

“It’s exciting when you see her coming in and having the the freshman season that she is having,” Sabino coach Cyndi Cubillas said. “She still has three more years of growth. It’s it’s pretty exciting to see what’s going to happen by your senior year.”

Three-time defending state champs Sabino is 24-3 and ranked No. 1 in the state among 3A teams (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Scupin hit 41 home runs in her first three varsity seasons before her senior year in 2020 was canceled because of COVID-19.

Mann is on pace to hit more than 40 home runs in her career. With increased strength as she matures, the number could very well go past 50.

Her immediate stardom enticed some of San Miguel’s players to ask her to autograph their softball after the game Monday.

“It’s pretty cool that people look up to me,” Mann said of the experience. “I’ve usually looked up to people since I was younger. It’s kind of cool that people look up to me and take me as a person to look up to.”

Avery Nielson (5) and Riley McFarland are two senior outfielders for Sabino (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Sabino’s loaded senior class has the respect of Mann, who acknowledged that next season, “will be a difficult one probably but I believe my team can pull it off and be good.”

Four of the Sabercat seniors are batting at least .400 —

  • Infielder Jesamin Aguilar, .600 with 12 doubles, five home runs and 36 RBIs.
  • Catcher Gianna Pancost, .493 with nine doubles, two triples, five home runs and 30 RBIs.
  • Outfielder Rylee McFarland, .434 with 12 doubles, two triples. four home runs and 29 RBIs.
  • Infielder Bailey Nichols, .402 with five doubles and 24 RBIs.
Sabino senior shortstop Jesamin Aguilar is batting .600 (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

The pitching is young with no seniors among the top four in the circle.

Sophomore Avery Nielson, sister of former Sabino ace Riley Nielson, tops the Sabercats with a 13-1 record and 1.45 ERA. She has 110 strikeouts and 33 walks in 87 innings.

Sariah Ferrentino, a junior, is 8-1 with a 2.50 ERA with 54 strikeouts and 16 walks in 47 2/3 innings.

“If one’s on, great. If one’s not, then we’ll split games if we need to,” Cubillas said of the luxury of having two quality starters. “We can also throw (sophomore) Ella (Morse) right in the middle if we need to really adjust speeds

“So pretty much we’re looking at staff — trying to really use the full staff.”

San Miguel is in its first full season of softball since 2019 (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

Cubillas is the third coach in as many seasons who led the Sabercats to a state championship.

Chris Stainer coached Sabino to the 2019 championship, COVID-19 claimed the 2020 season and Kyle Howell led the Sabercats to the 2021 title before Cubillas coached Sabino to the championship last season.

With a No. 1 power rating and winning 20 of its last 21 games behind the productive lineup and potent bat of Mann, Sabino is primed for another deep playoff run.

“Fingers crossed, as long as the girls compete — I can’t ask for more than that,” Cubillas said.


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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