Three local ballclubs get one chance today to make their way onto a state championship tournament bracket.
The Flagstaff baseball and softball teams and the Coconino baseball program, all of which compete in the 4A Conference, are all on the road for their play-in games and are looking to pull off some upsets.
For both of Flagstaff's squads, today is a chance to avenge losses in last year's play-in contests. Meanwhile, Coconino hopes it can conjure up some of the magic from a year ago to take another trip to the state title chase.
The No. 24-seeded Flagstaff baseball team is scheduled to play ninth-seeded Shadow Mountain in Phoenix, while the softball crew, seeded 19th, is set to play in Lake Havasu against the Knights. Coconino's baseball team will be just northeast of Tucson as the No. 21 seed to take on 24th-ranked Catalina Foothills. All games are slated for a 4 p.m. start.
Here's a look at each team heading into the must-win situation.
The Panthers are plenty familiar with being in tough spots.
The majority of Coconino's games were decided by three or fewer runs. The Panthers won four of those tight games but lost seven.
Coconino finished 9-9 overall and 6-6 in the Grand Canyon Region standings, hitting the same regular-season marks as a year ago. Moreover, the Panthers went 13-13 when including tournament games played outside the power-points schedule.
A junior and a senior have been leading the way to a return to the play-in round, helping the Panthers end their first season without a shutout loss since 2016.
Tyler Walters, playing his final season, leads the team with three home runs -- good for second most in the region -- and is second in RBIs (23) for Coconino to go with a .372 batting average. Junior Jordan Lucero has also given the Panthers production at the plate, hitting .326 and holding on to a team-high in RBIs at 26, second in the region.
The pair has contributed 60 combined hits as leaders of Coconino in the category, with Kyle Casados adding 24 and Tyler Tapia 21. Walters is the only player in the Panthers dugout with double-digit extra-base hits. He owns 12 doubles and two triples in addition to his team-high in homers, and he is slugging an impressive .662.
Coconino enters the play-in round as winners of three of its past five ballgames, while Catalina Foothills comes in on a four-game win streak that includes a win over a top-eight ranked Salpointe Catholic team that avoided the play-in round. Helping the Falcons get the 6-5 standout victory was Gabe Soto, who owns a sub-1 ERA.
Soto allowed one earned run on four hits against Salpointe while throwing 4 2/3 innings.
Last year, the Panthers edged No. 16 Washington on the road, 7-6, to reach the state tourney bracket, where they lost in the opening round to No. 4 Canyon Del Oro, 6-4. Catalina, on the other hand, is out for a return to the title round after losing last year's championship game to Nogales, 3-2, as the No. 2 seed against the No. 1.
The Eagles are looking to right their ship after stumbling into the play-in round as the No. 24 -- and final -- seed, having won three of their last seven outings.
Flagstaff faces the No. 9-seeded Shadow Mountain Matadors after being the No. 9 seed itself in 2018. Last season ended on a sour note for the Eagles, who let a lead slip away in the play-in round.
This year, Flagstaff hopes to be on the right end of an upset, but it will have to cool down a Shadow Mountain team that's riding a five-game win streak that includes four games in which it scored double-digit runs.
Flagstaff posted a 9-9 regular-season record and went 5-7 in the Grand Canyon Region. The Eagles have not won a postseason game since 2014, the first year manager Mike DoBosh took over the helm.
Four Eagles have pitched 25 or more innings this season when including games played outside of the regular-season slate. Leading the way on the mound has been senior righty Carter Kasprzyk, who has thrown 40 innings. Meanwhile, Josh Cornelius has contributed 25 1/3, and Sylas Clerry and Justin Hanson have each added 25.
Clerry is hitting a team-best .457 and is tied with Rylan DoBosh for the most runs batted in at 24 apiece. But for Flagstaff, the pitching and hitting don't always come together at the right times.
Flagstaff went 9-3 when scoring six or more runs against regular-season opponents, and two of the three losses came in games decided by one run.
Shadow Mountain has a freshman slugger Flagstaff will have to keep at bay. Leading the Matadors in homers at 7 is the young Jason Datta, who is also batting .412 and is tied for second-most RBIs on the team at 30. Four of Datta's homers have come in the last five games.
The Eagles hope to keep turning their season around with a trip into the state tournament, taking a two-game win streak into the play-in round today after suffering a six-game slide.
Flagstaff, seeded 19th, takes on a Lake Havasu Knights ballclub that went 9-9 overall in the regular season for the No. 14 seed and home-field advantage as a wild card. The Eagles finished at 10-8 thanks to a seven-game win streak that came just before the slide made their season a balancing act.
Like Flagstaff, Lake Havasu also lost its meeting with the Coconino Panthers, but both teams beat their other common opponents in Mohave, Lee Williams and Deer Valley.
Last year, the Eagles lost their play-in game against Douglas in Flagstaff, 7-2. Leading her team back to the must-win round, senior right-handed pitcher Makenna Snodgrass has been solid in the circle for the Eagles, posting a 3.01 ERA across 104 2/3 innings pitched that include games played outside of the power-points slate.
On the other hand, Havasu has had two arms share work pitching, and both have ERAs around or over 5.00.
At the plate for the Eagles, another senior has been leading by example, as Monica Encinas owns a team-high 29 RBIs and 27 hits.
The Knights like to power their way to wins to help their pitchers, totaling twice as many homers as the Eagles hit during the year with 12.