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Palo Verde softball earns 5A state tourney berth — PHOTOS

Palo Verde’s softball team needed to survive an elimination game in last year’s Class 5A Southern Region tournament to qualify for the state tournament.

The Panthers earned their state berth this year in a slightly less stressful manner by taking care of business in a winners’ bracket game Wednesday.

Palo Verde, the Mountain League’s No. 2 seed, scored twice in the top of the first inning and held on for a 3-2 road win at Shadow Ridge, the Mountain’s top seed, to clinch the Panthers’ second consecutive state berth.

“It feels amazing. It was a team effort the whole season,” said Palo Verde shortstop Mya Bartlett, who went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. “We’ve been fighting, and it’s been a great journey with our team. Everybody’s been pumped up, and it’s an amazing feeling. It’s giving me chills.”

Palo Verde (18-7) will host the 5A Southern Region title game at 1:30 p.m. Friday to play for the South’s No. 1 seed at next week’s state tournament.

“It feels great,” Palo Verde coach Kelly Glass said. “They’ve been working hard, making the adjustments they needed, and they’ve come together completely as a team and it’s so much fun to watch.”

Shadow Ridge (16-7) will host the winner of Bishop Gorman-Coronado in an elimination game at 4:30 p.m. Thursday to determine Palo Verde’s opponent in the region title game and the South’s second state representative.

Gorman and Coronado, who survived elimination games Wednesday, will play in an earlier elimination game at 2 p.m. to determine Shadow Ridge’s opponent.

With Shadow Ridge trailing 3-2 entering the bottom of the seventh, Mustangs pitcher Josslin Law doubled with two outs.

Freshman outfielder Alexis Kearnes then sealed the win for Palo Verde with a diving catch near the left-field foul line on a Carmella Garganese fly ball for the final out.

The Panthers mobbed Kearnes in celebration of clinching their state tournament berth.

“It was a moment of relief because that game was stressful,” Bartlett said. “It was neck and neck, and I was so proud of my teammate Alexis Kearnes for making that play. It was an amazing play and an amazing effort.”

Bartlett helped Palo Verde strike early. Leadoff hitter Taylor Johns doubled and raced home on a Shadow Ridge throwing error when Kayleen Enriquez laid down a sacrifice bunt.

Bartlett then doubled to bring home Enriquez and put the Panthers ahead 2-0 in the first.

Shadow Ridge answered in the bottom of the inning when Jacobi Gledhill doubled to bring in Jimena Barraza.

Bartlett extended the Palo Verde lead to 3-1 in the fifth when a two-out single to score Kearnes.

Shadow Ridge answered again in the bottom of the inning when Barraza tripled with two outs to score Garganese. Palo Verde starter Bradi Odom forced Stevie Robison to line out to Johns after an 11-pitch at-bat to end the inning.

Odom, pitching her third straight day, scattered six hits with three strikeouts on 89 pitches in a complete-game effort to earn the win.

Odom “was ready to go,” Glass said. “Luckily we were able to keep her pitch count low. Her and catcher Madi Malloy, they’ve been working really well together and communicate very well. Third day in a row, she’s ready for the day off.”

Barraza and Garganese each finished 2-for-3 with a run scored for Shadow Ridge.

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

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