Despite losing just two of its first 16 softball games, Peoria Sunrise Mountain has flown under the radar this season.
It was easy to understand why some put the Mustangs down the list of Division II contenders.
After all, the Mustangs lost three of their starting infielders, their starting catcher, and ace pitcher Taylor Nowlin, azcentral’s Big Schools Player of the Year, from their Division II state-championship squad.
Coach Jody Pruitt admitted it would be a challenge, but she had expectations that her young team would be competitive. The roster lists eight underclassmen and four seniors.
The team has been competitive, and more.
Sunrise Mountain scored one of its biggest wins yet on Friday (April 11), outlasting Phoenix Greenway 2-0 as junior pitcher Valerie Vidal tossed a one-hitter.
It was the third victory for the Mustangs over Greenway this season. The other two came in tournaments.
Sunrise Mountain, 12th in D-II power points entering Friday’s play, improved to 14-2. Greenway, which has been No. 1 at times this season and was No. 2 on Friday, slipped to 18-6.
Sunrise Mountain scored its first run in the second inning. Catcher Whitney Chamberlain hit a one-out single and courtesy runner Jenna Mote scored on a double by Brianna Ambrose.
The Mustangs scored a big insurance run in the sixth when third baseman Danae King, the only returning starting infielder, hit a bloop triple to right field and came home on a groundout to second by Chamberlain.
Vidal struck out seven and allowed three other baserunners in addition to the hit – two errors and one hit batter. She did not walk a batter.
“Our pitcher did a great job,’’ Pruitt said.
Vidal was showing signs of being an effective pitcher last season, but Nowlin was so dominant that Pruitt had Vidal pitch some junior-varsity games so she could get her innings in.
“I knew we were young this season, but we were capable of playing well,’’ Pruitt said. “We knew that because of our good program (four state titles), we knew we were going to get their (opponents’) “A’ game when we played them.
“We seem to be doing better each time we play. It’s tough sometimes, but I think we are going to be OK.’’