The Lady Sand Devils brought home the 3A North Regional softball championship trophy after winning the tournament last weekend in Tuba City. The Sand Devils took on the Window Rock Fighting Scouts in an exciting seven innings.
The Sand Devils went into the regional playoffs ranked number one in 3A North Regional with a 9-1 win/loss league record and an overall 17-10 win/loss record that gained them a second round start against the number four ranked Tuba City Warriors who the defeated 5-3. Sand Devils then advanced to the championship round against the number two ranked Window Rock Fighting Scouts who also had a second round spot on the brackets.
The Sand Devils and the Fighting Scouts met on the Tuba City High School softball field to vie for the 3A North Regional league trophy. With sophomore Shelby Blake on the mound the first three innings went fast and runs were held up as both teams brought their ‘A game’, giving up only one run each for a tie 1-1.
In the bottom of the fourth inning the Sand Devils brought out their ‘everybody gets a hit’ attitude. Immediately they began to fill up the bases, which head coach Sunni Krank insists is just fundamentals, but this maneuver has now become a calling card for the Lady Sand Devils’ 2018 season. With two runners on base Camryn Nockideneh went to bat and she knocked it out of the ballpark to bring in three runs. With only one out on the board, the score was 4-1, Sand Devils. The Scouts pitcher was clearly rattled.
The next batter up was Mikennah Penrod who got a base hit and with the Scouts pitcher’s mistake was able to steal second base. Up next was heavy hitter Erin Hunt who hit a line drive to midfield and advanced Penrod to third and then on to home plate. Up next Christina Lucero was walked to first base, followed by Cora Tsosie with another walk to first. Scouts were feeling the pressure, which opened up the opportunities for Lucero and Tsosie to bring in two more runs. End of the fourth inning gave the Sand Devils a 7-1 lead.
The top of the fifth inning started with the ‘Hold them’ strategy to prevent the Scouts from scoring. Blake’s cannon fired heat from the mound and struck out the first batter with no swings. The next batter hit a pop-up foul that was caught for the second out. Shelby walked the next batter who was caught stealing second for the third out. No score for the Scouts.
At the bottom of the fifth the Scouts fought to strike out the Sand Devils. Up to bat was Blake who got a base hit and later stole second. The Scouts pitcher was throwing heat as she was able to strike out the next two Sand Devils but Blake found her way to steal third. Up next, Penrod was walked to first base and Blake stole home giving her team an 8-1 lead.
The top of the sixth inning was a nail biter for the Sand Devils when the Scouts came out of the dugout with a plan and a last chance effort to close the run count. It was a big inning for the Scouts. Their rotation of batters landed them a new strategy the Sand Devils did not expect. Scouts’ first batter hit a ball right out of the park for the Scout’s second home run of the game. Blake walked the next batter but was able to shake it off when catcher Kylie Wood tried to catch them leading off at first base. Four attempts by Woods kept the Scouts pinned to first base. Blake recommitted and came back with a clean strikeout.
The temperatures rose in the outfield and so did the pressure when a few outfield mistakes costs the Sand Devils five runs. With two outs on the board and bases loaded the Sand Devils fought to gain that third out on the Scouts before they could tie the game up. Woods made the play, catching a pop-up foul hit. Sixth inning score 8-6 for the Sand Devils.
At the bottom of the sixth inning, the Scouts held the score at 8 to 6 as the Sand Devils tried to revamp their strategy with bunts and base hits. Scouts utilized teamwork to ensure no mistakes were made on the field and kept the Sand Devils from reaching home plate with three quick outs.
The top of the seventh inning could have gone in any direction with the Scouts up to bat. Cool and collected, Blake came from the dugout and fired full heat off the mound for a clean strike out that could only be tracked by speed radar. The Scouts second batter was delivered the same heat for a swing and a miss attempt. On the second pitch the Scouts batter stepped into the line of fire and the ball bounced off her wrist and a sub was used to walk to first base. Blake shook it off and next batter gained a base hit that sent the ball straight to third for the second out and a quick pass to second to catch a steal where she was tagged for the third out and the Sand Devils took the championship.
Congratulations were made to the Scouts who took the loss hard. The proud families of the Page team ran onto the field to take fun photos while waiting for the trophy presentation.
The 3A North Regional Softball Player of the Year was a senior Amaya Curley who leads the league in stolen bases and runs (30), with a number three placement for Win Stat Leader, as well as, league placement in the top five for Earned Run average and 34 strikeouts with an RBI of .382. “I feel we did a good job pushing through.” She said happily about her team’s ‘never give up’ attitude. She also modestly acknowledged her ability to gain a base runs with a steal.
“Yes, I can delay to steal and still get that run.” said Curley whose stats preceded the regional championship.
Exceptional stats for Shelby Blake who earned the top spot in the 3A North for playing eight wins and pitching 136 strikeouts, with 13 strikeouts in the championship game and she is also in the top spot for Win Stat leader. Notable stats also for Kylie Woods with a Fielding Average that is ranked number two with .968.
Coach Krank proudly gave kudos to the team on their win.
“We played with a lot of heart today. This year we played with a lot of perseverance. [The coaches] can’t take the credit because our girl’s ‘softball’ came into play and their natural ability to see what [play or pitch] is coming. Camryn came through and we got the runs, Shelby did what she needed to do and defense stepped up to help.” She said about highlights of the game.
Coach Krank, who is in her first year of coaching varsity softball, adds her sentiment about upcoming 3A Conference game on home turf. “It’s wonderful because we are going to be more relaxed and play our own game. I was born and raised here and they have a great program, I’ve always wanted to be a part of this.”
The 3A North Region First Team includes Sand Devils’ own Amaya Curley and Shelby Blake. The 3A Second Team includes Sand Devils’ Erin Hunt.
The Lady Sand Devils move into 3A Conference playoffs this Wednesday at the Sports Complex at 4 p.m.