The last time the Flagstaff Girls Softball Little League 10- to 12-year-old All-Stars played San Xavier in the state tournament, they only recorded one hit in a shutout loss. On Friday night, they had more hits in the first inning than they did in the entire last meeting.
Flagstaff rode that momentum the rest of the game at Continental to take a 4-0 win over San Xavier, forcing a winner-take-all game for the state title Saturday at a time and place to be determined.
“To be honest with you, I had absolute confidence in this group of girls,” Flagstaff manager Mark Wilson said. “They are a stellar softball team. I’ve been coaching for going on 13, 14 years now, and this group plays as hard as any team I’ve coached. They are outstanding athletes and they are better teammates.”
Flagstaff’s hitters started the game hot in the bottom of the first inning as Gianna Baca recorded a single on the first pitch San Xavier pitcher Ariana Flores delivered. The next two batters for Flagstaff would make it on base -- Izabel Pozar on a full-count walk and Gracie Schmitz with a single to load the bases for Alyssa Fockler. Facing a 1-2 count, Fockler hit a two-run double to give Flagstaff the early advantage.
That would be it for the inning as San Xavier got out of the jam with three straight outs. Fockler’s two-run RBI double would end up being her only hit of the night as she finished 1 for 3.
The next three innings became a defensive battle as Flores found her rhythm on the mound, and Schmitz and the Flagstaff outfielders kept San Xavier from gaining any ground.
Schmitz had a no-hitter going into the top of the fourth that was broken up after the second batter of the inning had a base hit. With one out and a runner on first, Flagstaff center fielder Reese Elliot had a deep fly ball hit to her that initially looked like it was going to get past her toward the wall, but she turned underneath it for an over-the-shoulder grab in deep center.
After the game, Reese said her team played really well and she is excited to play San Xavier one more time, hoping Flagstaff comes away from Saturday with a second consecutive state title.
Following Elliot’s catch, Schmitz would strike out the next batter.
Between Elliot’s catch and multiple other plays by the Flagstaff defense, Wilson is confident in his team after Friday’s performance.
“My defense is one the best defenses I have ever seen on a diamond,” Wilson said. “They are that good. They know what to do when the ball comes to them and what to do when the ball doesn’t come to them. They’re stellar. They’re a great defense. They did an absolute, wonderful job."
The skipper added: “That’s the capability this team has. They came in here fired up."
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Flagstaff added some insurance as they scored two in the frame off a two-run double from Elliot. It was also her lone hit of the night as she finished 1 for 3 with two RBI.
Schmitz finished her night on the mound with a complete-game shutout, six strikeouts, two walks, and she gave up just two hits, returning the favor to San Xavier. As a team, Flagstaff recorded eight hits, drew five walks, were struck out eight times and left eight runners on base.
Friday's game was originally set to take place at Coconino High School, but was moved to Continental due to bad field conditions.
Flagstaff had its run in the state tournament come to an end on Thursday, finishing 0-2 in Avondale.
Casa Grande pushed Flagstaff into the losers bracket on a Wednesday 25-17 victory, and Cactus Foothills nixed the team from the tourney on a 9-5 decision.