For the second year in a row, coach George Corona has the Marana girls’ softball team in the playoffs.
Even after a 15-7 loss to Sahuaro on Senior Day, the Marana Tigers may be more prepared for the playoffs than last year’s squad.
The Tigers are ranked No. 11 in the 4A rankings, while the Cougars are ranked No. 4
“We’re more mentally prepared,” said Marana’s Sammie Merriman. “We can battle. We played our hardest.”
The final score has to be taken with a grain of salt. The Tigers, who had already beaten the mighty Cougars once this year, actually held a 7-6 lead last Thursday, until the sixth.
Merriman stepped up in the fourth with two down and belted a three-run home run to give the Tigers a 7-6 lead.
Was it uplifting to take the lead with the long ball?
“Definitely,” Merriman said. “I knew when we got back in the field, we’d come back alive.”
With John Fogerty’s “Centerfield” playing on the loudspeakers between innings, the mood was enthusiastic, and everything seemed to be falling into place.
“I have faith in our offense and defense,” Merriman said.
Unfortunately, pitching became an issue in the last two innings. Tiger reliever Courtney Lacaillade struggled with her control, and walked five batters in the last two innings. Meanwhile, Sahuaro banged out six hits and scored nine times in the last two innings. They finished with 15 runs and 16 hits.
Brooklyn Beardshear led the way for the Cougars with five hits, five runs batted in, and belted a home run. Hannah Gradillas, who had two hits, also homered. Taylor Lawson, Amy Bergeson and Morgan McKeever each chimed in with two hits.
“We had enough runs,” said the Tigers’ Alex Steinmehl. “The pitching and defense were shaky.”
Steinmehl had three hits and batted in two runs for the Tigers. Merriman had three runs batted in for Marana, and Stephanie Hiller had two hits and a run batted in.
“It was a great game prepping us for the playoffs,” Steinmehl said. “So we can fix it before the tournament.”
“We had similar nerves (for Sahuaro),” Steinmehl said. “It’s better to have them now than in the playoffs.”
Sahuaro scored three runs in the first inning, as they threatened to make it an early blowout. Then, the Tigers scored once in their half of the first. After Beardshear’s homer in the top half of the third gave the Cougars a 4-1 lead, the Tigers rallied back with two of their own in the bottom half of the inning. Jenna Bodman walked. Haley Oesterling was hit by a pitch. Steinmehl and Hiller delivered run-scoring singles. But a double-play ended the threat.
The Tigers played their final season game on Tuesday, May 3, at Nogales. While the top eight teams in the 4A rankings get to open the playoffs with home games, the (currently) 11th-seeded Tigers expect their playoffs on the road on Friday, opponent and site to be determined.