It's not the most popular route, but for the three local teams figting for their playoff lives today, advancing through the postseason will mean a trip through the consolation bracket.
After losing Saturday, all three teams are now in do-or-die situations, having to win-out to keep their season going.
All three teams also share this in common — today, win or lose, will be their final home games of the season.
The Raiders (17-1) are out to prove that earning the No. 2 seed was no fluke, despite losing in the opening round to No. 15 La Joya at home on Saturday. And with Sarah Ray and her 1.53 ERA, Cibola has a legitimate shot at regaining it's momentum and continuing on through the postseason.
To advance, Cibola will have to get a familiar foe in Pinnacle (16-14), the No. 10 seed from a tough Desert Valley Region.
Both teams met in the elimination round two years ago with the Pioneers getting a 1-0 edge on a walkoff home run.
"They've been a good program for a long, long time. They're a 10 seed, but that doesn't make much of a difference heading into the state tournament," said coach Shelly Baumann.
In Baumann's 20 years with Cibola, her team has won the state title once, in 1994, and has finished runner up three times — 1993, 95 and 98. Those squads all had solid pitching, but were also consistent day in and day out.
"The difference between those teams is we knew which team was going to show up to play. There were no highs and lows. We knew exactly what we were going to play like," Baumann said. "This year's team has been very inconsistent. We're very good one through nine and it's exciting when everyone is on."
Baumann cites Saturday's game as the perfect example. With the exception of a 2-for-3 performance by Alex Roman, the rest of the team struggled at the plate, producing 15 outs on pop-ups — nine of which never left the infield.
Cibola will see pitcher Jenna Makis, a junior with a 3.59 ERA, who's pitched against St. Mary's and Chaparral twice this season. St. Mary's is currently the top seed in the 5A-I conference.
Pinnacle also has a solid one-two punch in their lineup with Katie McCallister and Kale Gahn, both with batting averages over .400.
"We're going to have to execute to win. And play with some guts. If we get out bunts down and hit to the opposite field and move runners over, we have a good chance," Baumann said.
YUMA HIGH SOFTBALL
Of the three local teams fighting for their playoff lives today, No. 11 Yuma (11-5) might have the best draw in the bracket with No. 14 Betty Fairfax (10-8). A recent program from the Metro Region, Fairfax is a bit of an anomaly, posting a narrow 6-5 win over Parker, a 3A school, at the Buckeye Invitational earlier this season.
The Stampeed have not faired well against tougher teams in the 5A conference, losing 17-1 to Pinnacle and 20-1 at Casa Grande.
"I e-mailed Casa Grande today and the coach said they (Fairfax) are pretty inexperienced. I'm kind of going into it a little apprehensive and uncertain of what their talent is going to be," Yuma High coach Liz Huyck said.
According to Huyck's contact, Fairfax has a few good hitters and the pitching report is that the starter's velocity is in the slow to medium range. That will be a stark contrast to what Huyck's squad saw Saturday against No. 6 Sunnyside where ace Estela Pinon struck out 17 of the 21 batters she faced in the Criminals' 3-0 loss during the opening round of the state playoffs.
To adjust, the team has continued to work on what got them to the postseason - their short game - with leadoff hitter Larissa Espinosa getting on base and moving to second on a steal or a bunt from No. 2 hitter Jessy Aguirre. From there, Marissa Madrigal, Isabel Villalobos and Linda Ontiveros, the three-through-five hitters, pick up opportunities to drive in runs.
"The short game has been our philosophy this year. We do have some speed and we do have some players who can bunt and slap. We got our big sticks with three, four and five, and they usually can get the RBI. After that we have speed at eight and nine then it starts over again," Huyck said. "It's a part of our practice everyday."
Being down after the first round is nothing new to the Criminals, who dropped their opening game at state last year, but went on to win the second game at home over Phoenix-North.
Ironically, a win today over Fairfax could lead to a possible third-round matchup with No. 15 La Joya, depending on the outcome of it's game with No. 7 Ironwood on Wednesday.
"Right now it doesn't matter who we're playing, it's do or die. We got to come out and perform," said Huyck.
They may be down, but the No.9 Raiders (13-14) are definitley not out of the postseason, drawing No. 16 Valley Vista (17-11) for their second-round matchup.
Cibola ace Ryan Nowlin (6-1, 3.04 ERA) takes the hill today against a team who's posted some decent numbers against solid 5A schools. Valley Vista from the Northwest Region fell to No. 6 Deer Valley twice by one run but put 16 runs on No. 7 Boulder Creek this year.
"They've played some good teams. We just have to come out ready to play. We have to play our game and execute," said coach Duane Evans.
The Raiders will have to get their offense going after a 10-2 loss on Saturday, and the Monsoon's pitching staff and their team ERA of 4.89 just might provide a much-needed jumpstart.
"We're not a team that comes out and flat out beats the ball. We do the basic things like moving runners over and manufacturing runs. Once in a while we get big hits, but we don't rely on that," said Evans.
The 2009-10 campaign marks the first trip to state for the current Raider's squad.
"These kids haven't played at state. I told them not to get caught up in playing in the postseason drama. Play your game and we'll win," Evans said.