Staff photo by Eric Lusk
Mingus senior Rochelle Watkins (1) gets a hero's welcome from Nicole Zettler (center) and Marie Fredlake after scoring the game-tying run int eh seventh against Flagstaff.
The Marauders clinched their post-season berth Thursday with a 3-1 win over Coconino in the Grand Canyon Region semifinals. Friday’s Mingus-Flag match-up was strictly for playoff seeding – and bragging rights.
“I’ve never failed to qualify a team,” said Wombacher, who coached in the 1970s and then returned to the job after folks like Tom Green led the team to state titles in the 1980s. “And we’ve never finished lower than second (in the region).”
The Marauders will play the Skyline Region’s champion on the road as the state playoffs open Tuesday afternoon. That opponent looks to be Greenway, which has been ranked in 4A all season.
Mingus nearly had the chance to swipe the Grand Canyon’s top seed for the second consecutive year following a late-game rally against the Eagles.
Flag took a 2-0 lead in the third inning, following a pair of triples and two singles. That advantage seemed pretty safe with the Eagles’ star pitcher Rhiannon Baca on the mound, but the Marauders chopped one run off their deficit in the top of the fifth. Jamie Bodam stroked a nice single that scored Ashley Perea.
Mingus then tied the game 2-2 after Rochelle Watkins reached on an error and moved around the bases on a fielder’s choice by Nicole Zettler and another RBI base hit by Bodam, who was hitting in the number nine spot.
But that would be all the Marauders could muster across the plate. Lindy Wilburn followed Bodam’s game-tying hit in the seventh with another single. But Marie Fredlake flied out to right field to end the inning.
While Mingus shut Flag out in the seventh inning, they couldn’t repeat the feat in the bottom of the eighth.
Emily Farness doubled to lead off and moved to third on a passed ball. Pinch hitter Megan Hogan, a junior varsity player until last week, then punched a full-count single through the middle that barely evaded the gloves of Marauder infielders.
Flagstaff wins 3-2 – avenging last year’s one-run defeat in the GCR final. The Eagles also beat Mingus by one run in the 2000 region final.
“We made them work for it,” Wombacher said. “Hey, you’ve got to give a lot of accolades to (Hogan). To be sitting on the bench the whole game and pinch-hit. That’s what dreams are about.”
Zettler absorbed the pitching loss for Mingus but did have the satisfaction of striking out Baca, one of the best hitters in the state. Zettler struck out five Eagles in all, while the Marauders only struck out twice against Baca – the first two hitters of the game.
Mingus finished with eight hits.
“We had a couple of good opportunities,” Wombacher said. “Jamie Bodam had two big hits. This is the best hitting ball club I’ve ever had. We’re balanced from the one hole to the nine hole.”
Mingus had six timely base knocks in Thursday’s win over Coconino. Fredlake doubled and brought a run home in the third. She then scored on a passed ball. Stearley doubled in the fourth and later came home on a single by Watkins.
Zettler, Wilburn and Ashley Perea also had singles.
Wilburn earned the pitching win, tossing a three-hitter with five strikeouts. She gave up a leadoff walk in the first, and that runner scored. But from there, the sophomore and her teammates clamped down and held the Panthers off the board.
“We beat a very good Coconino team,” Wombacher said. “We had excellent practice sessions prior to the contest. The kids were very focused and played a clean game. (Wilburn’s) middle defense made some outstanding plays.”
Stribling, the shortstop, came up with a handful, including a nice back-handed catch and throw to first for a putout.
MINGUS 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 — 2 8 3
FLAG 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 — 3 10 1
WP: Rhiannon Baca
LP: Nicole Zettler
Highlights: JV call-up Megan Hogan hit the game-winning RBI in the bottom of the eighth, scoring Emily Farness. This is the third year in a row the Eagles and Marauders have played a one-run game in the GCR final.
COCO 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 1 3 1
MINGUS 0 0 2 1 0 0 0 — 3 6 1
WP: Lindy Wilburn (9-4)
LP: Sara Cavolo
Highlights: Coconino’s batter of the game scored, but the Mingus defense clamped down from there. Marie Fredlake and Gail Stearley had doubles. Rochelle Watkins and Fredlake had RBIs.