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Allen provides defense at third base for Hawks
Chances are you haven't heard Michelle Allen's name that much. She doesn't hit home runs and she doesn't have a ton of RBIs, but that doesn't mean she's not important.
In fact, Allen is solely a defensive player — and she guards third base like a Hawk.
Having a solid, reliable player like Allen is a big reason Gila Ridge has been having the run through the Division II state tournament that it has, reaching the third round, which begins the eight-team, double-elimination portion of the tournament. Allen and the Hawks will face No. 1 Sunrise Mountain.
“She's started for us since she was a freshman and played a ton at third base,” Hawks coach Jaime McGalliard said. “She's embraced the role of ‘my job is to make every single play.' As a senior, four-year starter, anybody could've been upset that they're not hitting but she hasn't done that. She's just really embraced her role and said this is my job and this is what I have to do to help the team. She's excelled this year and she's better than ever defensively.”
Junior year was a different story. Allen struggled at her position and was actually moved from defending her third. She saw her senior year as a fresh start.
“I knew coming back that this year nothing was going to be given to me and I was going to have to work my butt off to redeem myself and get my position back. To be having the season that I am out on the field, it's great. I don't think it could get any better.”
Some would see having just one job — as opposed to having to play both offense and defense — as easier, but not Allen.
“If they mess up on the field, they can go in and bat and redeem themselves a little bit. It's not like that for me. If I do bad on defense, then that's my position and that's my only job. It does put a lot of pressure on me but it's a good pressure because it makes me want to do my job every single time.”
The pressure doesn't ease up once you make the postseason, especially as the No. 24 seed going against top-ranked Peoria-Sunrise Mountain. First pitch is at 5:30 p.m. today at Rose Mofford Complex in Phoenix.
The Hawks are confident they will be able to topple the No. 1 seed but know they will have to continue playing excellent defense to do so.
“They always say offense sells tickets and defense wins championships and I think that has become very apparent to me,” Allen said. “Going through this whole playoff run, I think we've had two errors the whole time. It makes a huge difference when you don't give up extra bases and you make every routine play how much the game changes.”
Coming this far, McGalliard said, is no surprise to her or her team and she doesn't want to be viewed as underdogs.
“Everybody is talking about what's happening right now,” McGalliard said. “But what's happening right now started in 2007, it started in 2008. ... When these kids started as freshmen and sophomores, people looked at us like we were crazy playing four or five freshmen at a time.
“We knew what the big picture was and we were just going to continue to work towards that big picture. It didn't matter if we took our lumps because we were looking towards that big picture. It's those situations that have prepared them for right now and it's those situations that have given them the confidence to do what we've been doing.”
Erin Redmond can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6880. Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com or 539-6880.