Winslow High’s Taylor Baca knew what was at stake.
She and her softball teammates were fighting for survival in Saturday night’s (May 17) Division III championship game against Payson.
The senior first baseman-pitcher hit a two-run homer in the top of the first inning and broke a tie in the top of the seventh with a two-run single, lifting the Longhorns to a 5-3 victory at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex in Phoenix.
Winslow, seeded No. 2 behind top-seeded Payson, made up for its only loss of the season, a 2-0 setback to Payson on April 8. Winslow finished with a 31-1 record, Payson at 26-9. Winslow had finished as state runner-up for three straight seasons after winning it all in 2010.
The left-handed-hitting Baca had driven in a pair of runs with two doubles in a 10-4 win over Benson in Friday night’s semifinals.
Of Saturday night’s heroics, she said, “It had to be done. I’m in the fourth position (in the batting order). That’s what I’m supposed to do.’’
After Baca’s early home run, Payson scored its first run on an error in the bottom of the first.
Winslow increased its lead to 3-1 in the third inning on a wild pitch. Payson got one back in the fourth on a wild pitch and tied it in the fifth on a run-scoring single by Sadie Dunman.
The Bulldogs went back to work in the top of the seventh.
Leadoff hitter Jaleisa Hayes walked on four pitches and Megan Lymer hit a hard shot off the top of the third baseman’s glove for a base hit. Baca brought both runners home with a single to deep left-center.
“It’s been four years (since the last title). It’s exciting,’’ said Winslow coach Kelli Fifelski. “Taylor is an awesome No. 4 hitter.’’
She also gave credit to junior pitcher Richelyn Villanueva, who scattered seven hits to earn the win.
When the game’s final batter hit a fly ball to Lymer in center for the last out, the Bulldogs rejoiced.
“I knew she had it (when the ball left the bat). It was done. It was amazing,’’ Baca said. “We had faith in our pitcher. I think we wanted it more.’’