Bears rout Flagstaff 11-1 in 1st round state playoffs
Hambrick hits 3-run HR, Bradshaw Mountain heads to 2nd round of state
PRESCOTT VALLEY — One down, four to go.
For the third-seeded Bradshaw Mountain softball team, which eliminated No. 14 Flagstaff, 11-1, in a run-ruled five innings Tuesday, April 30, in Round 1B of the 4A state tournament, four more consecutive wins would hand the program its first state title in 22 years.
The Bears (32-1, 11-1 Grand Canyon) play their second-round game at home at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 2.
“We have a goal of winning state, and now we just marked another thing off the list,” Bears pitcher Jacie Hambrick said. “Now we’re on to the next thing to mark off our list.”
At their campus field, the Bears extended their winning streak to 11 by dominating fellow Grand Canyon region member Flagstaff. Bradshaw Mountain swept the Eagles in their regular-season region series, winning by the scores of 10-2 on March 5, and 15-1 in six innings on April 13. Shortstop Caitlynn Neal’s three-run walk-off home run with two outs in the fifth concluded matters.
Flagstaff, which had knocked off No. 14 Lake Havasu, 8-5, in the play-in round April 24 to qualify for the 16-team state tournament bracket, started the playoff game here promisingly.
The Eagles grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning on an RBI single from catcher Monica Encinas. But it was all Bradshaw Mountain after that.
“We weren’t so worried about their hitting as their pitching,” said Flagstaff assistant coach Joe Snodgrass, speaking on behalf of coach Ray Hernandez. “That was our big preparation for the week, which the girls did well. We’ve made a lot of adjustments on our hitting. It’s just that the ball fell in their place, and it happens.”
Hambrick, a southpaw, allowed one run on three hits, striking out 10 and issuing two walks in five innings to nab the victory. Hambrick started slowly, but she picked up steam as the contest progressed, retiring the side in the third, fourth and fifth innings.
“Jacie wasn’t loose the first inning – it was very evident – before she settled in,” Bears coach Sharon Haese said. “But that just fired the kids up to come back and get some hits and play some small ball and push a couple runs across the plate. Jacie worked through it, and that says a lot about her character and her maturity to keep her composure.”
No Flagstaff hitter managed an extra-base hit against Hambrick. Andi Elliott, Encinas and Carmen Joe had a single each.
“I just relaxed,” Hambrick said. “I was kind of tense the first inning. Going in, I just settled in and did my thing instead of worrying about everything else that was going on around me.”
And a hard-hitting Bradshaw Mountain lineup wasted no time getting hot here in the postseason, as the game was bookended by two homers off of Eagles starter Makenna Snodgrass, who went the distance.
“We worked really hard the last week to prepare for this game, and we knew what kind of pressure we were under and we just kind of let that affect us a little bit more than what we should have,” said Snodgrass, who will pitch for NCAA Division III Wilson College in Pennsylvania in 2020. “I thought we were going to get them this game, and we didn’t get the timely hits that we needed.”
Hambrick’s three-run blast from the cleanup spot in the bottom of the first handed the hosts the lead for good.
“Jacie [Tuesday] was our sparkplug,” Neal said. “She was phenomenal and did a great job in the circle.”
Later, in the fifth, Neal ended the game on her homer, which soared down the leftfield line and landed just inside the foul pole.
“I knew I had enough on it; I just didn’t know if it was going to be foul or not,” Neal said. “So, it was a little iffy, but I was quite thankful it went over.”
At the dish for the Bears, Hambrick finished 2 for 3 with a homer, a double, three RBIs and two runs scored.
Neal (2 for 4, homer, three RBIs, run scored), Kassidy Outlaw (2 for 4, three RBIs, run scored), Layla Stouder (2 for 3, RBI, two runs scored) and Kirsten Schmidt (1 for 2, RBI, run scored) also contributed.
“I’m pullin’ for them to win state, and they’ve got the team to do it,” Eagles assistant Snodgrass said graciously. “I’ve coached Club ball for years against Neal and Hambrick’s daughters. They’re great kids; they’re great athletes. I wish them well. They’re a good team, and they’re coached well.”
With its victory over Flagstaff, Bradshaw Mountain has qualified for the 4A state tourney’s double-elimination round. In Round 2B, the Bears will play host to No. 6 Canyon del Oro, which shut out No. 11 Desert Edge, 6-0, in their first-round game Tuesday, at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 2, at the Bears’ campus field.
If Bradshaw Mountain wins, it would advance to Round 3B at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 7, at the Rose Mofford Softball Complex, 9833 N. 25th Ave., in Phoenix. If the Bears lose, they would drop into the losers’ bracket for L Round 2A at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 4, at Rose Mofford.
Doug Cook is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Twitter at @dougout_dc. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2039.