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Palo Verde pounds past Coronado for region softball title — PHOTOS

Palo Verde’s Taylor Johns hit a shot off the shin of Coronado pitcher Sarah Lopez for a base hit in the team’s first plate appearance Friday.

It was a sign of things to come.

The Panthers hit the Cougars hard all day, pounding out 15 hits on the way to a 10-5 home victory in the Class 5A Southern Region softball title game.

“We definitely just wanted to attack our pitches and not swing at balls that we weren’t going to drive hard,” said Johns, who went 4-for-4 with a double, an intentional walk, two runs and an RBI. “We definitely wanted to get up and just do things to score runs.”

Both teams already had secured berths in next week’s state tournament. Palo Verde (19-7) will be the South’s No. 1 seed, and Coronado (17-6) will be the No. 2. Both teams will play a to-be-determined Northern opponent Thursday at Bishop Gorman.

Coronado would have had to win twice Friday to capture the region title. Palo Verde’s bats made sure that a second game wouldn’t be necessary. The Panthers scored in each of the first four innings, capped by a four-run fourth that gave them a 10-1 lead.

“They wanted to play one game today, and they came out ready to go,” Palo Verde coach Kelly Glass said.

Coronado ace Kendall Selitzky had thrown 11 innings Thursday and 30 innings in the team’s five games this week, so the Cougars turned to Lopez, who had been used sparingly all season. The Panthers wasted little time attacking.

Johns scored the game’s first run on an RBI single by Alexis Kearnes, and the Panthers added run-scoring singles from Payton Liposky and Haley Kearnes to take a 3-0 lead after one inning.

“Every time we’ve played them it’s been a close game, so we definitely wanted to score first and keep on going,” Johns said.

The Panthers added a run on a sacrifice fly by Kayleen Enriquez in the second inning and got a two-run double from Enriquez in the third.

Johns had an RBI double to highlight a four-run fourth. The Panthers also got an RBI double from Makayla Enriquez, an RBI single by Liposky and a sacrifice fly from Madi Malloy in the inning.

“Anytime you can jump ahead on a team, a good team in particular, it is nice,” Glass said. “But you can’t let up and get relaxed, you’ve got to finish the game. But it’s a good way to start.”

Panthers pitcher Bradi Odom had rolled through five innings, allowing an unearned run on just two hits.

But things got a bit interesting in the sixth, which happened to coincide with the arrival of the Palo Verde baseball team, which was celebrating its 11-0 win over Coronado in the region championship game.

Odom walked three batters in the sixth, and Coronado capitalized with a two-run double by Selitzky that cut the lead to 10-3. It looked like it might get worse for Odom and Palo Verde, but she got Charlotte Bendlin to ground back to the pitcher with the bases loaded for a 1-2-3 double play to end the inning.

Odom struggled a bit again in the seventh, hitting the first two batters and walking the next. Coronado got a run on a fielder’s choice and another on a sacrifice fly by Alohi Mundon before Odom struck out Sophie Bendlin to end the game.

“I think the baseball team made her nervous,” Glass said of Odom, who gave up four hits, walked four and struck out three. “She’s such a calm, quiet, humble kid. And I think it was maybe a little too much. But she finished, and we’re so proud. She’s a big reason why we’re here.”

Now the focus for Palo Verde turns to maintaining momentum in next week’s state tournament.

“I think it’s a lot easier to come off a win than it is a loss, obviously,” Johns said. “So we’re just going to keep on doing what we’re doing and keep the same mindset.”

Liposky was 3-for-4 with two runs and two RBIs, and Mya Bartlett, Haley Kearnes and Makayla Enriquez each added two hits for Palo Verde.

Mary Lou Tsunis went 2-for-2 with two runs for Coronado.

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