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Palo Verde, Coronado look to dethrone North team for softball title

Softball teams in the Class 5A Mountain League got a good look at what to expect in the postseason with how tough the league was.

Coronado coach Lauren Taylor said every league game felt like a “championship game.”

Palo Verde coach Kelly Glass added: “Every league game with a grind. Every game mattered. There was no letting up. Ever.”

The 5A state softball tournament begins Thursday at Bishop Gorman, and the South’s two representatives emerged from a three-way tie for first place in the Mountain League.

Coronado (17-6), the South’s No. 2 seed, faces Northern champion and reigning state champion Douglas (30-4) at 11:30 a.m. in an opening-round game. Palo Verde (20-7), the South’s No. 1 seed, faces the North’s No. 2 seed Spanish Springs (30-7) at 2 p.m.

“I know that they have the ability to perform under pressure,” Taylor said. “They have the ability to get in there and do the job without allowing the stage to become too big for them.”

Palo Verde defeated Coronado last week for the Southern Region title and No. 1 seed in the state tournament.

“The feeling from the team is that they are not done,” Glass said. “They have more they want to accomplish as a team. Their energy is high, and they can’t wait to take the field together.”

‘Push we needed’

Palo Verde qualified for last year’s state tournament. After losing in last year’s region title game, the Panthers dropped their first two games in the state tournament and were eliminated.

Glass, who has led Palo Verde to three state titles, said winning the region title has boosted the team’s confidence.

“The experience (of qualifying for state last year) motivated them to get back,” Glass said. “These girls are amazing students of the game, communicate so well and have each other’s backs. Knowing what it would take to get back to the state tournament was the push we needed to work to get here.”

Among the returners from last year’s team are junior shortstop Mya Bartlett and sophomore second baseman Taylor Johns. Bartlett leads Palo Verde with a .541 average and 35 RBIs. Johns is second with a .471 average and leads the Panthers with nine home runs.

Starting pitcher Bradi Odom, who joined Palo Verde this season, is 11-4 with a 1.83 ERA. The junior right-hander earned four wins in the circle during last week’s region tournament.

“This group has worked so hard to get on the field and make an impact to get us back in the position we are in now,” Glass said. “It has been fun to watch.”

Coronado had a tougher path to qualify for the state tournament. The Cougars lost their opening game of the region tournament and had to go through the losers’ bracket and win two elimination games May 9 to qualify for the state tournament.

Coronado has leaned on pitcher Kendall Selitzky, the lone senior on the team. Selitzky, 11-4 with a 1.83 ERA, pitched complete games in Coronado’s two wins to get to state.

“Because of (Selitzky’s selflessness) and the role that she plays on this team being our starting pitcher, it sets the tone for everybody else,” Taylor said. “Even though she might not be the loudest person on the field, her actions speak louder than anything else.”

Northern favorite

Douglas enters the state tournament as the favorite. The Tigers went undefeated in Northern League play, allowing just 33 runs in 16 league games, and have won 16 straight games.

“We sat down after that loss on Friday, and the first thing out of their mouths was, ‘OK, we’ve got Douglas next week,’ ” Taylor said. “They’re resilient and they bounce back and they’re ready to go. They know what faces them on Thursday and are fully prepared to take on that challenge.”

Palo Verde got a firsthand look at how good Douglas is in an 8-3 opening-round loss in last year’s state tournament. Senior Talia Tretton, an Iowa commit, has a 1.00 ERA while starting all of Douglas’ games in the circle and is hitting .480.

“We know (Douglas) is a good squad,” Glass said. “It seems as though Spanish Springs is also a good team. Northern teams earned their spots in this tournament, and it will be good competition.”

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on X.

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