Bradshaw Mountain took advantage of a pair of costly errors against the Coconino Panthers Monday at Coconino High School.
In a matchup of top-10 4A Conference softball teams, the fourth-ranked Bears beat the seventh-ranked Panthers 2-0, sweeping the season series of the Grand Canyon Region ballclubs.
Offense was at a premium for both teams throughout, amplifying the smallest mistakes. In the top of the fourth inning, with two outs in a scoreless game, Bradshaw Mountain’s Layla Stouder hit a ground ball that sneaked through the Panthers' first and second basemen, bringing in the Bears runner from second.
Coconino starting pitcher Kaitlyn Snopek got the next batter to hit into an infield fly to her shortstop, getting out of the inning without allowing any more damage.
The Panthers offense was unable to support Snopek, failing to connect in the bottom of the fourth inning while suffering the 1-2-3 frame.
After the Bears popped out to start the top of the fifth, Bradshaw’s Kassidy Outlaw hit what looked like a routine groundout to first. But Coconino couldn’t make the play, putting Outlaw at first.
Snopek struck out the next batter she saw, but Coconino couldn’t connect on a throw from catcher to first base trying to throw out Outlaw. The bad toss went down the first-base line, allowing Outlaw to make it all the way home for a score to give her team a 2-0 lead in the fifth.
“All they needed was one run and they got their one run off a sneaky bunt and then a base hit to score her,” Panthers manager Kimberly Dennis said. “And then, yeah, we fell apart on that second run. I don’t know what happened there. It’s definitely frustrating. They're a great team. I felt that we battled well and we’ve played them tough twice. In the game down there, they beat us by a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth.”
The Panthers had a chance in the bottom of the fifth with two on and two outs, but Madelyn Clouse flied to center, stranding runners at second and first.
Snopek retired the side in the top of the sixth, keeping her team in striking distance. The offense continued to struggle against Bradshaw pitcher Caitlynn Neel, again leaving runners at first and second at the end of the sixth.
In the top of the seventh Snopek and the Panthers defense sat down three of four batters, allowing just one hit in the inning to keep the score at 2-0 entering the bottom of the inning. Neel struck out all three Coconino batters to end the game.
Snopek ended her day pitching all seven innings, striking out nine batters, allowing two walks and four hits. Snopek also led her team with a pair of hits. Bradshaw used both of its star pitchers, Neel and Jacie Hambrick, who combined to throw seven scoreless innings, giving up three hits to Coconino.
“Their big hitters didn’t hit her very well. But yeah, she did a great job,” Dennis said of Snopek’s outing.
The loss puts the Panthers at 11-4 overall and 7-3 in the Grand Canyon Region behind Bradshaw and Mingus Union. With three games remaining on the regular-season slate -- two against Flagstaff Tuesday and Thursday and then Desert Edge on Monday -- Dennis said it's time for the entire team to step up.
“We gotta get all 12 performing. It takes a team, we all talk about the 12 strong for us,” she said. “We gotta be 12 strong, solid through the lineup. A couple players are struggling and we need to pick them up.”
First pitch against No. 17 Flagstaff is set for 3:45 p.m. at Flagstaff High School.