Criminals rip through Fairfax in run-rule win
There was no shortage of changes to the Criminals softball team when the team took the field on Tuesday.
A new catcher and a new batting order resulted in a new outcome for the Yuma High squad - a win in the state playoffs.
The No. 11 Criminals defeated No. 14 Betty Fairfax 11-0 during the first game of the elimination bracket of the 5A-II Softball Playoffs. Yuma High hammered Fairfax pitcher Marina Duenas for 14 hits and reached base twice on fielding errors in the run-rule shortened contest.
Three days after losing to Tucson-Sunnyside in the first round of the double elimination state tournament, the Criminals experimented with a new lineup. Yuma High coach Liz Huyck moved catcher Jessy Aguirre to first base, outfielder Melissa Madrigal to catcher and outfielder Brittany Clifton to the infield.
It was Clifton, hitting out of the No. 8 spot in the order, who led the Criminals' charge. She went 2-for-3 at the plate, hitting two doubles and knocking in four RBIs. Clifton also scored the final run of the fourth inning, reaching home on a wild pitch, which allowed Yuma High to pick up the run-rule win.
"I was really impressed with (Clifton) at the plate, she's struggled at the plate all year. She's been hot and cold, but she did a good job stepping up in the No. 8 spot," Huyck said.
Clifton was able to take advantage of Duenas' pitching speed, which was slower than what the team had seen most of the season.
"It was kind of like San Luis' (pitching)," Clifton said of Duenas' velocity. "We knew we could hit off them."
The team had no problem with hitting from the first at-bat. Larissa Espinoza led off for the Criminals, reaching base on a single. Espinoza quickly moved to second on a stolen base and reached third on a wild pitch, all while the No. 2 batter, Jessy Aguirre, stood in the box.
Aguirre hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Espinoza for the game's first run. The next six Criminal batters reached base, capped off by Clifton's two RBI double to give Yuma High a 7-0 lead.
Isabel Villalobos, the Criminals' No. 4 hitter, had difficulty adjusting to Duenas' speed. After knocking two pitches foul in her first trip to the plate, Villalobos returned to the dugout to pick up a heavier bat.
"You have to time it differently than other pitchers," Villalobos said. "Sunnyside's pitcher was really fast. Coming to a slower pitcher you have to adjust to it."
Villalobos bounced back in that at-bat, hitting a double and finishing her day at the plate 2-for-3. She picked up two doubles, two runs and an RBI.
Villalobos also picked up the win for the Criminals in the circle, throwing a complete five innings, allowing only five hits, walking two and striking out six on 67 pitches.
Not everything was easy for the Yuma High ace. Leading 11-0 in the top of the fifth frame, Villalobos struck out a Fairfax's Mariah Garcia before giving up a single and a walk.
She quickly regrouped and struck out the next two batters to end the inning and the game.
"(Villalobos) started out a little apprehensive and nervous," Huyck said. "But once we got those runs, I think she settled down. I think she threw a bit harder and got those calls that she needed."
The Criminals will play their next game against the loser of today's game between Avondale-La Joya and Tucson-Ironwood Ridge at Phoenix-Sandra Day O'Connor on Friday.
Huyck said she was confident in how her team could perform in either matchup.
"They're confident in themselves and know that we can play with the best of them," She said. "That's what we need to feel now."
Matt Maxson can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6880.