Winslow softball team comes up short in Division III finals
By Quentin Jodie
PHOENIX, April 16, 2013
(Times photo – Donovan Quintero)
T he history between the two programs is quite extensive.
For the last four years, the Winslow Lady Bulldogs and the Estrella Foothills Lady Wolves have played each other in the state tournament, including back-to-back finals in the 2010 and 2011 season.
So it was fitting to see both squads make the finals at this year's Arizona Division III state softball championship on Saturday night at Rose Mofford Sports Complex in downtown Phoenix.
But unlike its championship game from three and two years ago, this contest was decided early as the No. 5 seed Estrella Foothills plated three runs in the first frame before exploding for seven in the top of the fourth for a 10-0 lead.
With that the Wolves were one inning away of ending this game with a run-rule win. One year ago the Winslow squad ended Estrella Foothills' season in that manner during last year's state semifinals.
This game, however, ended up going the full seven innings with Estrella Foothills coming out on top with a 12-4 win.
"We really wanted this game but we left a lot of runners on base tonight," said Winslow coach Kelli Fifelski. "We still hit the ball well and we got a couple lead runners on base but we left 10 runners on."
Fifelski said it was frustrating to see her team come up with some nice hits against Estrella Foothills ace pitcher Dustie Durham, but the 12 hits they scattered did not seem to add up in the scoring department.
"She's a real good pitcher but it's usually something that we can handle," Fifelski said. "We've been handling those kinds of pitches that last couple of weeks. Our hits were not falling … we had a couple of pop outs here and there and they got us on that. It's tough when you get that lead runner on and not move runners."
The first-year coach said that was the difference in the ball game as the Wolves finished the game with 15 hits, three more than Winslow, which garnered the No. 3 seed this year.
"Defensively I thought we did real good," she said, "but they got some blooper hits and scored while we didn't."
Estrella Foothills coach Rick Brungardt acknowledged the history between the two schools and he felt that his club needed to come out firing on all cylinders to have a chance.
"We played them before in the championship game so it's starting to become a good rivalry," he said. "Fortunately for us we were the better team tonight and I thought that first inning was the catalyst to get us going."
In that inning, the Wolves loaded the bases as Winslow starting pitcher Halle Hayes walked two before Estrella Foothills third baseman Allison Montano belted a three-run triple.
The real damage came in the fourth as Estrella Foothills plated seven runs off eight hits.
"I told the kids that we couldn't sit on the three runs," Brungardt said. "They responded real well and they picked it up again."
Defensively, Brungardt said his team played solid as the Wolves stranded five Winslow runners to start the game.
"Winslow is a great team and they're a good hitting team but our defense was there tonight," he said. "It's been solid all year and you know Dustie has come a long way."
The Estrella Foothills coach said Durham has a repertoire of pitches and has great command on the rubber so he expects his sophomore ace pitcher to get better.
"She's going to be a great pitcher," he said. "She has a lot of things working for her. She can move the ball and she can throw hard so she's going to be a force to be reckon with."
Winslow first baseman Taylor Baca went 4-for-4 against Durham with three singles and a double while Halle Hayes finished the game with three hits.
"Taylor came through for us tonight with some really nice hits," Fifelski said. "But we did not string enough hits in the same inning to score."
In last Friday's semifinal game against No. 2 seed Payson, Baca went a perfect 3-for-3 and finished with four RBIs as the Bulldogs advanced into the championship game for the fifth straight time with a 14-4 win in a contest that went five innings.
"The girls came into that game ready to go," Fifelski said, while adding that there were some similarities to last year's state championship run where the Bulldogs run-ruled a higher seeded team in the semifinals before losing to a lower seeded team in the finals.
Last season, the Bulldogs run-ruled Estrella Foothills before losing to Bourgade Catholic by a 7-1 count.
"A couple of people were worried (on Friday night) with them getting a run-rule game against Payson because it had some similarities as last year," Fifelski said. "It's not good that it fell the same way but it's something we want to break next season."
Winslow outfielder Renee Bollin said it was disappointing to come in second for the third straight year, especially with the untimely death of last year's coach Becky Barris, who lost her life in a car accident in January.
"It's hard coming back, getting this far and finishing second," she said. "But this year it was harder because of the fact of what happened.
"Most of us were fighting for Becky," she added. "We tried to play our best game but overall we just gave up too many runs."
When asked to describe their season Bollin said they had an up-and-down year but for the most part "it was positive."
"We had a new coaching staff but overall I think the coach did really well," she said. "We had a great year but I think were going to have a better year next season."
Coming in second for the third time is all the "motivation we need," she added. "We plan on coming back with the state title next year."