Getting even? Not quite, but 5A softball championship rematch delivers

Junior Trinnity Kennemer was the player of the game for Willow Canyon in its recent 5A rematch with Canyon View. (Photo by Dominic Rivera/Cronkite News)

WADDELL – From the time their schedule came out, the Canyon View Jaguars had their March 18 date with Willow Canyon circled.

The meeting came 10 months removed from the Jaguars’ loss to Surprise Willow Canyon in the 2021 5A Girls’ Softball State Championship game. Waddell Canyon View was set on getting even and handing the Wildcats just their third loss of the season.

Andrea Hudson, Canyon View’s athletic director, said the team’s returners worked hard in the offseason, aiming at the rematch.

“They are ready,” she said before the game. “They have been talking about this game since the start of the season.”

In a game that was circled on their calendar since before the season started, the Jaguars’ energy was high as they celebrated their early 2-0 lead over the reigning champs in the third inning. (Photo by Dominic Rivera/Cronkite News)

As the defending champions, the Wildcats approached the game without the hype.

“For us, it is just cliché, but it is just another March game,” Willow Canyon coach Donnie Tizzano said. “That is just kind of the way we are approaching it. I think it will be a lot closer than that championship game.

“I expect it to be a raucous, rowdy crowd because they definitely want to beat us.”

The game lived up to the hype and all of the clichés as Willow Canyon emerged with a 3-2 victory in 14 innings.

Wildcats senior Tristen Turlington scores what would be the winning run in the top of the 14th inning. Afterward, she celebrates with Willow Canyon teammate Harmony Andrade. (Photo by Dominic Rivera/Cronkite News)

“We will just continue to work until we achieve our goal,” said Canyon View Jaguars coach John Jacobs. “Willow Canyon is only part of the goal. The ultimate goal is for us to be the state champs.”

Despite the buildup, both teams knew that the outcome would not dramatically change the course of their seasons, but could serve as a catalyst for their postseason push.

“Win or lose, our girls will continue to move forward and push the limits,” Hudson said. “They take each game day-by-day with the goal to get better each time.”

Sold-out stands greeted the teams and the game went back-and-forth as starting pitchers Lauren Ervin of Canyon View and Marissa McCann of Willow Canyon battled it out.

Ervin found herself in major trouble at various points of the game, with multiple runners in scoring position. But she kept finding ways of a jam by fielding balls herself or when her infielders caught Willow Canyon baserunners off guard.

Jaguars senior ace Lauren Ervin kept the Wildcats offense at bay for most of the ballgame, fighting her way back into counts and at times relying on her glove to get crucial outs in extra innings. (Photo by Dominic Rivera/Cronkite News)

Meanwhile, despite falling behind in the count, McCann perfectly located pitches when needed and fought back, striking 17 batters and walking just one.

The Jaguars struck first, scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the third inning and Ervin would continue her stellar work into the fifth inning before the Wildcats broke through for their first run. Then the Wildcats took advantage of a fielding error to tie it in the sixth.

From that point, neither team was willing to budge and they battled through seven extra innings before the Wildcats finally pushed across what would prove to be the winning run in the top of the 14th. Junior relief pitcher Kayleigh Bowers retired the Jaguar in order in the bottom of the inning to put the game away.

Tizzano stuck to his just-another-game theme.

“Honestly, we are pretty confident,” he said. “We are not playing great, but we are playing well. We catch the ball. We’ve got Marissa in the circle throwing strikes and she has really good stuff. We haven’t really clicked on all cylinders yet, but we are still putting up a lot of runs.”

Wildcats sophomore Breanna Windahl crosses home plate to tie the game, sending fans into a frenzy. The teams went scoreless from there until the Wildcats pushed across the winning run in the top of the 14th inning. (Photo by Dominic Rivera/Cronkite News)

In the end, both clubs were excited to showcase their athletes. Willow Canyon’s entire infield is headed towards Division I programs while Canyon View has two players that will be playing major college softball, Ervin.

“I’m very happy for them because their hard work is being recognized throughout the community. They are very motivated kids,” Tizzano said. “I think it’s just kind of icing on the cake, it is nice that they could see that other people appreciate the hard work that they’re doing.”

Dominic Rivera daw-mee-nee-k rih-ver-ah (he/him/his)
Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Dominic Rivera expects to graduate in spring 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. He is working for the Phoenix sports bureau.