Amanda Zunno played on Rancho’s softball team in the 1990s and is in her seventh season as coach of the Rams.
When she speaks to her team about school tradition and playing with pride, she uses two words to emphasize her point.
“The Ranch,” Zunno said. “We gotta come out and represent every year. We’re looking to go to state.”
The Rams took their first step toward their fourth state berth in five years with a 6-4 home win over stubborn Palo Verde in the opening round of the Mountain Region tournament.
“That’s been my biggest goal, is to bring back tradition, is to bring back that pride and to know that when you come to The Ranch, this is your home and you have to represent,” Zunno said.
Junior pitcher MacKenzie Perry went the distance, allowing four runs on eight hits, striking out nine and walking just one for Rancho (25-6), which will visit top-seeded Centennial (30-4) in a winners’ bracket semifinal at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
“It was really important to start (the tournament) with the good energy,” said Perry, who used a variety of pitches and good command to keep the Panthers off balance. “Like, come together as a team because we’ve been working on that the whole season. So being together was the most important thing, and I feel like we did it really well today.”
Perry was 2-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI. Kaitlyn Suarez also collected two hits, including a double, and Mia Elicerio went 1-for-2 with a double and two runs.
Alyssa Lybbert had two hits for Palo Verde (13-15), which will host Bonanza (11-12) in an elimination game at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The Rams opened the scoring in the first when Suarez led off with a double to the left-center field wall, and later scored on a double steal. Elcerio made it 2-0 in the second when she came home from third on an error.
Palo Verde got a run back in the third on Jadyn Navarro’s RBI groundout, but the Rams took advantage of two errors in the bottom of the inning to up the margin to 4-1.
The Panthers tacked one on in each of the fifth and sixth innings, cutting the lead to one, but Rancho padded its lead in the sixth with back-to-back RBI hits by Giselle Ramirez and Perry, who pitched out of a jam in the seventh to preserve the win.
“I tell them there is a community behind us; it’s not just softball players,” Zunno said. “It’s softball, Rancho softball, Rancho admin, Rancho teachers, Rancho community. You work all year for playoffs and to come in strong from the beginning to get the ‘W,’ to stay in that winners’ bracket is just key.
“The communication these girls have worked on over the last few weeks is just something I’m really proud of.”
Centennial 18, Bonanza 0 — At Centennial, Jillian Bartley’s game-ending grand slam capped a 12-run third inning as the Bulldogs routed the Bengals.
Bartley was 2-for-2 with a double and six RBIs for Centennial. Kaylee Pierce went 3-for-3 with two RBIs, and Sofia Ruelas was 2-for-3 with two doubles and two RBIs for the Bulldogs.
Abby Hanley tossed a one-hitter and struck out four for Centennial.
Shadow Ridge 11, Cimarron-Memorial 1 — At Shadow Ridge, Shea Clements was 3-for-3 with a triple, a double and an RBI to lead the Mustangs by the Spartans in five innings.
Winning pitcher Jasmine Martin was 2-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs, and Hailey Morrow was 2-for-2 with a triple and an RBI for Shadow Ridge (23-1), which will host Arbor View (25-7) in a winners’ bracket semifinal at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Jordyn Ramos was 1-for-3 with a home run for Cimarron (12-10), which will visit Faith Lutheran (11-16-1) in an elimination game at 4 p.m Tuesday.
Arbor View 17, Faith Lutheran 7 — At Arbor View, Roxanne Ines went 4-for-5 with two RBIs as the Aggies downed the Crusaders in six innings.
Kaylea Patridge was 2-for-3 with a double and three RBIs, and Paige Kellogg went 2-for-4 with three RBIs for Arbor view.
Kelsey Howryla was 3-for-3 with two doubles and three RBIs, and Hannah Propst went 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI for Faith Lutheran.
Ryan Watkins’ walk-off grand slam with two outs capped a nine-run bottom of the seventh inning as host Sierra Vista stunned Desert Oasis, 12-10 in the opening round of the Desert Region tournament.
Watkins belted a 3-2 pitch over the center field fence for her only hit of the game.
Hola Rose Nakayama was 4-for-4 with a double and an RBI, and Mia Buranamontri went 3-for-4 with a double and three RBIs for Sierra Vista (20-11), which will visit Coronado in a winners’ bracket semifinal at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Winning pitcher Tyerra Kaaialii was 3-for-5 with a triple, a double and an RBI.
Holly Severance was 4-for-4 with a double and three RBIs, and Amber Brocoff went 3-for-4 for Desert Oasis (19-15), which will host Green Valley (16-14-1) in an elimination game at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Jaid Raval was 2-for-4 with a double and two RBIs for Desert Oasis.
Coronado 2, Green Valley 1 — At Coronado, Ashley Ward tossed a five-hitter and struck out 10 as the Cougars defeated the Gators.
Ward also was 2-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI.
Hannah Mearideth went 1-for-3 with an RBI for Green Valley.
Liberty 15, Foothill 8 — At Liberty, Debra Tofi was 2-for-3 with a triple, a double and three RBIs as the Patriots overcame an early 8-3 deficit to down the Falcons.
McKenzie Hamilton was 3-for-5 with a double and an RBI, and Heather Scott was 2-for-4 with three RBIs for Liberty (17-5), which will visit Basic (26-7) in a winners’ bracket semifinal at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Angelina Rodriguez was 3-for-4 with an RBI, and Allyson Fox went 2-for-4 with three RBIs for Foothill (13-15), which will host Bishop Gorman (14-21) in an elimination game at 4 p.m. Tuesday.
Basic 11, Bishop Gorman 4 — At Basic, Shelby Basso tossed a three-hitter with 12 strikeouts and went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs to help the Wolves top the Gaels.
Sierra McClean was 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBIs, and Madison Berg was 1-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs for Basic.
Katelyn Hunter was 1-for-3 with a grand slam, and Mia Weckel went 2-for-4 for Gorman.