After struggling and escaping with a first-round victory over Scottsdale Saguaro, Cactus head coach Bartt Underwood wondered why his team struggles in the opening round of the playoffs each year.
“I asked the girls that myself,” Underwood said after the Cobras cruised to an 11-0 second-round victory over Mohave May 1. “This year, we pulled out a one-run win. Last year, we pulled out a one-run win. I don’t know what it is, but I am proud of the way they turned it around today.”
Freshman McKenna Feringa was dominate on the mound, allowing one hit and striking out five in a five-inning victory. Feringa retired 11 of the final 13 batters she faced to end the game.
“She was throwing exceptionally well tonight,” Underwood said. “I won’t say which pitch it is, but I was actually calling more of a pitch that was not her best pitch today because she was throwing it harder and placing it better than she has all season.”
Cactus opened the game by sending 12 hitters to the plate and driving six runs in the first inning, all with two outs.
Junior Alynah Torres opened the scoring by crushing a 3-1 pitch over the right centerfield wall for a home run. Senior Emilie Guerra followed with a double and Feringa walked. Senior Nicole Osteen then doubled both runners in and the Cobras were up 3-0.
“My hitters were very aggressive at the plate in that first inning,” Underwood said. “They were aggressive, but very patient and waited for their pitch.”
Freshman Hannah Difabio then singled and junior Carson Gambs was hit by a pitch to load the bases and a run was brought home when sophomore Kaiulani Nowell was also hit by a pitch to load the bases. Sophomore Kaytlin Leyvas singled in one, forcing Mohave head coach Shannon Patterson to make a pitching change.
“It was just time,” Patterson said. “(Starting pitcher Daezsha) Goodloe was struggling and (Cactus) was hitting the ball hard and I just thought I needed to make a change.”
With senior Kalani Reehil on the mound, sophomore Aubrey Chaves walked to load the bases again, before Reehil got Torres to fly out to center to end the inning.
“We hit well in the first, and during batting practice, (assistant coach Dave) Hyman told me it was the best pre-game hitting they had done and that they were going to hit the ball hard today,” Underwood said. “They showed that in the first and it continued the entire game.”
Cactus would add two in the second and one in the third, before Torres would end the game with her second home run of the game, for the walk-off victory.
Torres had three hits and drove in four runs while Osteen added two hits and drove in two to lead the Cobras.
Cactus improved to 29-4 with the win and was scheduled to face second-ranked Apache Junction May 3 in the third round of the double elimination tournament, but Underwood said one thing after the Mohave (19-13) victory.
“If we play like we did today, there is nobody that can beat us.”