2024 Softball

Tucson High softball winning behind senior ace Jorgina Gant and potent lineup

Tucson senior Jorgina Gant, who has signed with Jackson State, struck out a season-high 14 batters in the Badgers’ 6-5 win in eight innings over Sunnyside on Monday (Stephanie van Latum/Special to AllSportsTucson.com)

Andy Camen has coached at the youth and high school level in Southern Arizona over the last two decades, so he has a keen viewpoint of the strength of softball around this area.

“The talent pool of the freshman and sophomore class I’ve seen play in the city in high schools, it’s a lot of talent out there,” said Camen, who is in his first season as Tucson’s head coach. “It’s going to be something that pushes us to continue to work to get better because we know we can’t rest with what we’ve got now.

“We’re going to have to keep producing and developing what we got.”

What Camen has now at Tucson (17-4, 2-1 6A South) is impressive.

In the Badgers’ 6-5 win in eight innings against talented Sunnyside (15-6, 2-1) on Monday, Camen’s team had numerous players excel at different points of the game.

Jorgina Gant, Tucson’s senior ace who has signed to play at Jackson State, was dominant in a complete-game performance with a season-high 14 strikeouts (one short of her career-high total of 15 last season in a win over Marana).

Jiselle Nuñez, a senior third baseman, went 3 for 4 with an RBI — a game-tying double in the top of the seventh inning on a full-count pitch with two outs.

Aaliyah Julio, a sophomore first baseman, belted a two-run home run in the top of the eighth inning with two outs.

Jaliyah Grigsby, a junior outfielder, also hit a home run, a two-run shot in the fifth inning that put Tucson ahead 3-0.

“It’s all about trusting my offense; they had my back the entire time,” Gant said. “They never made me doubt myself. Sofie (Trejo), my catcher, she really called a great game. Everybody had my back. They’re amazing. I love them.”

Sunnyside, behind its ace Tatyana Vega, rallied for four runs in the bottom of the sixth to take a 4-3 lead.

The Blue Devils were held hitless in the game by Gant until Vega hit a double to left field that scored Vianney Cruz, who pinch-ran for Tatiana Solano after Solano walked with one out.

After a single by Gabriela Morales, Lauryn Carbajal hit a two-run double to center field.

Then, on a 2-2 count, Amerika Lopez belted a double to the center field fence that scored Carbajal to put Sunnyside ahead 4-3.

“It was a roller coaster of a game,” Camen said. “It would have been easy for us to roll over (after Sunnyside’s sixth-inning rally), especially with the struggles we’ve had lately (losing consecutive games before the current three-game winning streak).

“We’ve continued to tell them to keep fighting, keep working, don’t give up, believe in yourself, trust yourself and trust what we’ve been teaching this whole season.”

Tucson followed Sunnyside’s four-run outburst with its two-out rally in the seventh behind Nuñez’s RBI double on a full count, scoring Grigsby, who walked after working the count full.

Julio then blasted her two-run home run in the top of the eighth, her third homer of the season.

“This gives us more confidence to continue the season,” Julio said. “We’ve got each other’s back.”

Gant got the first two batters to pop out in the eighth inning before Morales hit a home run.

Gant then struck out the last batter to notch the win and improve to 7-1 with a 1.53 ERA. She has 82 strikeouts and 16 walks in 59 2/3 innings.

The hard-throwing right-hander with an effective spin grew up playing softball.

Gant’s mom, Antonia, was an accomplished catcher at Salpointe who played for Phil Gruensfelder (now the Lancers’ athletic director).

Since she was 12, Jorgina Gant has trained under Nicki Johnson, Pima’s pitching coach.

“She’s been my pitching coach since the beginning,” the younger Gant said. “She made me the player I am today. She helped me get to college so I’m really grateful for her.”

The Camen name is synonymous with successful softball locally.

His daughter Angelina, a catcher, played recently at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and BYU after excelling at Rincon/University. Andy Camen was one of her coaches with the Rangers.

He is now coaching another daughter — Ariana — who is a senior infielder with the Badgers.

A general manager of Elite Sporting Goods in the past, the elder Camen has also coached elite players at the club level.

He said that Jorgina Gant is a “rock,” who thrives under pressure.

“You can never tell if she’s up or if she’s down,” he said. “She always has a smile on her face regardless of the situation she is in. That’s something you can’t teach. She just has that.

“In big-game moments she wants the ball and she wants to finish the game.”

Making her overall performance Monday more remarkable is she did not play for two weeks recently because she took a senior trip to France.

“I felt like I was dreaming a little bit,” she said of her trip. “I had to work hard when I got back because I knew I was going to be gone for two weeks and I wasn’t going to be throwing, but it was nice to have a vacation.”

Tucson has another significant game next on the schedule, at Salpointe on Wednesday at 6 p.m.

The Lancers (19-1) are rated fourth in 4A and the Badgers are No. 8 in 6A.

Sunnyside, rated No. 11 in 6A, next plays at home against Ironwood Ridge (9-6) on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The Nighthawks are the No. 14 team in 5A.


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 in 2016 and is presently a special education teacher at Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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