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SUNSET SOFTBALL: Sweeney wriggles out of jams, helps Panthers move to title game

Palo Verde reliever Kelsea Sweeney kept finding herself in sticky situations Thursday.

Fortunately for the Panthers, Sweeney kept finding her way out of them, too.

Sweeney allowed just one run on three hits in four innings of relief, twice stranding two runners in scoring position with one out in an inning, to lead Palo Verde to a 4-3 win over rival Centennial in the winners’ bracket final of the Sunset Region softball tournament at Bishop Gorman.

Palo Verde, which was swept by Centennial in the teams’ two regular-season meetings, advanced to the championship game at noon Saturday at Gorman and will have two chances to win and advance to state.

“She loves having the ball in those types of situations,” Glass said. “She did a great job.”

The Panthers (29-6) never trailed Thursday, but Centennial, which had a 13-game postseason winning streak snapped, had plenty of chances to take the lead.

Sweeney entered the game with runners at second and third and no outs in the bottom of the fourth and stranded both runners to keep the game tied at 2-2.

The Bulldogs (29-7) had two runners on with two outs in the fifth, but Sweeney got cleanup hitter Savannah Horvath to fly out to right.

With the Panthers holding a 4-3 lead in the sixth, Centennial had runners at second and third with one out, but Sweeney got consecutive strikeouts.

And in the seventh after Heather Bowen singled with one out, Sweeney got a fly out and a strikeout to end the game and put the Panthers within one win of returning to the Division I state tournament.

“It was important to get the win today,” Glass said. “We get to rest some worn body parts. It helps. If we had to come back (through the losers’ bracket), could we do it? Yes. But this makes it better.”

Melissa Lacro’s first-inning RBI single staked the Panthers to an early lead, and Breanna Beatty tacked on a solo homer in the third inning.

Centennial got single runs in the third and fourth innings — both times without a hit — but Palo Verde bounced back in the top of the fifth as pinch-runner Jordan Menke scored on a wild pitch, and Rachel Williams added a two-out, RBI single to plate Lacro.

“The girls want it more than they’ve wanted it before,” Glass said. “There is not one ounce of fear in their bodies. They just trust each other, and they pick each other up.”

Williams was 2-for-3, and Lacro and Kiley Harrison each went 2-for-4 for Palo Verde, which outhit Centennial, 10-5.

Lauren Stroman and Lacie Chakos each went 1-for-3 with an RBI for the Bulldogs, who will play at 4 p.m. Friday against either Arbor View (16-11-1) or Bishop Gorman (22-8). The Aggies and Gaels meet at 2 p.m. Friday.

Bishop Gorman 9, Sierra Vista 0 — Shelby Estocado went 4-for-4 with a grand slam and five RBIs, and Dayton Yingling tossed a one-hitter with 10 strikeouts as the Gaels routed the Mountain Lions in the day’s first game.

Ashley Witucki was 3-for-4 with an RBI and three runs, and Yingling went 2-for-3 with two doubles and two RBIs for Gorman.

Kalei Watkins’ fourth-inning, two-out single up the middle was the only hit for Sierra Vista (7-14).

Arbor View 3, Shadow Ridge 1 — Bryce Henricksen, Kayla Stephens and Marissa Bachman each had two-out RBI hits in the bottom of the sixth inning to lift the Aggies by the Mustangs in an elimination game.

Henricksen’s single to center tied the game at 1-1, and Stephens’ hit gave the Aggies the lead. Bachman followed with a double to short right field on a ball that was lost in the sun.

The Aggies had just three hits in the first five innings off Mustangs’ pitcher Tana Feiner.

Feiner was 1-for-3 with a double for Shadow Ridge (17-8).

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