After putting double-digits on the scoreboard the past two games, the Northland Prep Spartans faced pitches they've not yet seen this season on Thursday at Sinagua Middle School, falling to the Payson Longhorns, 18-1.
Playing host for the second straight ballgame, the 2A Conference Spartans played up for the second time against a 3A ballclub.
Despite being 0-2 against 3A teams, the Spartans, who moved to 2-2 with the loss, embrace the front-loaded part of the season.
“I would rather have better teams at the beginning of the season because it helps us really prepare," said Spartans manager Betty Dean. "So when we go back and forth with the weaker teams, that’s actually better for us to see the strong teams. I wish we would see more of these guys.”
Megan Swinney pitched all five innings of the mercy-rule defeat, and she was responsible for Northland Prep's lone RBI. She finished her 1-for-1 day at the plate with the RBI single to go with a walk.
Northland Prep Academy’s Megan Swinney (99) pitches the ball Thursday afternoon during play against Payson High School at Sinagua Middle School.
Swinney has been a key part of the team in the circle, at the plate and inside the dugout for the Spartans, who before Tuesday beat 2A teams Phoenix Christian and Horizon Honors by a combined score of 42-1. Dean said she needs more experienced players, such as senior Ellie Webb and junior Casey Auza, to continue to help the young team develop as the season unfolds.
Northland Prep Academy’s Grace Vonesh (2) prepares to throw the ball to the first baseman in order to execute a double play Thursday afternoon…
"The seniors, the juniors, they are all really helping the younger kids out. I have a lot of younger kids, sophomores and freshmen, that are starting," Dean said, adding that some of the roster is out with injury.
Auza was 2 for 3 against the Longhorns, who won last season's game against the Spartans 4-2 in Payson. Payten Schmidt, a freshman, was 1 for 2.
“Lots of steals, the base running was very good today. Casey Auza, Payten Schmidt all did a really nice job on the bases when they were on," Dean said.
The Spartans will meet another solid 3A team before the season ends when they take on the Page Sand Devils on April 9 in Page. Northland Prep is slated to continue a three-game homestand, taking on 3A Tuba City on Tuesday for a 3:45 p.m. game.
Last season, the Spartans beat the Warriors, 8-1, at Tuba City.
COCONINO 15, LEE WILLIAMS 1
Continuing its high-scoring pace to start the season, the Panthers completed the regular-season sweep of the Volunteers on Thursday in Kingman.
Needing just five innings to enact the run rule, Coconino scored four runs in the opening and closing innings and totaled 16 hits. Kaitlyn Snopek earned the win in the circle for the high-octane Panthers, who have now outscored their first four opponents by a combined score of 53-21.
The Panthers completed the season sweep of their first Grand Canyon Region opponent, improving in the region standings to 3-0.
Snopek notched four RBIs and was 2 for 3 with a single and a double. Brooklyn Wong was 3 for 3 with three RBIs, and McKenna Gladden followed suit with a 3-for-3 day and just as many RBIs as her teammate. Taylor Brown, Ashlyn Hernandez, Sam Seery, Makynzie Miller-Smith and Madelyn Clouse all participated in the hitting clinic with an RBI apiece.
Coconino will look to complete the sweep of another region team on Wednesday when they face the Bradshaw Mountain Bears for the second time this season. First pitch is slated for 3:45 p.m.
FLAGSTAFF 8, BRADSHAW MOUNTAIN 5
Shane Kuzmin hit a home run, Carter Kasprzyk had three RBIs and the Eagles took a lead and held off the Bears on the way to a victory in Prescott Valley Thursday, completing the Grand Canyon Region series sweep of Bradshaw.
Kasprzyk was 2 for 3 with a double and a walk, and pitched five innings for the win. The starter gave up four runs, two of which were earned, and struck out three batters. He walked three Bears and gave up five hits as the Eagles improved to 2-0 to start the regular season with the brooms out.
Nick Mariage closed out the game on the mound with three strikeouts, no walks and one earned run allowed for the Eagles, who scored two runs in the first inning to take an early lead. Bradshaw answered with two runs in the opening frame, but the Eagles jumped ahead with two more runners crossing the plate in the third and four in the fourth.
Bradshaw scored one run in each of the final three innings.
Stephen Canizales contributed two RBIs for the Eagles, who strung together hits throughout their first meeting with the Bears that ended in a 15-3 mercy-rule decision. Drew Healy drove in a run and had a double.
Flagstaff stays in the region with an away game at the Prescott Badgers Friday.
COCONINO 8, COMBS 1
Dominating another opponent before a step up in competition, the Panthers cruised through the Coyotes on the road Thursday.
Now 2-0 to start the season before hosting the Cactus Shadows Falcons on Friday at 3:30 p.m., Coconino nearly recorded its second straight 9-0 victory. Winning all six of its singles matches, only the Panthers' No. 3 doubles pair of Malia Glass and Angely Begay fell, with a close 8-6 defeat. The two won their singles matches at No. 5 and No. 6, with Glass victorious 7-5, 6-3 and Begay 6-3, 6-2 respectively.
Faith Daab didn't drop a game in singles (6-0, 6-0) or doubles (8-0) alongside No. 2 singles player Emma Walker. Walker added a 6-2, 6-1 victory as well. Olivia Larson swept her No. 3 match 6-0, 6-0 while Connor Garrod won 6-0, 6-2. The duo also came away with an easy doubles win, 8-1 at No. 2.
Finishing the regular season 12-3 a year ago, one of Coconino's three losses came to Cactus Shadows and the Falcons also eliminated the Panthers from the Division II state tournament in the first round last April.