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Millennium scores 7 straight to sink Tolleson

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MELISSA GUTIERREZ, left, of Millennium sets to throw to first April 7 against Tolleson as DeNae Chatman backs up. The Lady Tigers overcame a 6-0 deficit at home to beat the Lady Wolverines 7-6. View photo by Mike Rincon
MELISSA GUTIERREZ, left, of Millennium sets to throw to first April 7 against Tolleson as DeNae Chatman backs up. The Lady Tigers overcame a 6-0 deficit at home to beat the Lady Wolverines 7-6. View photo by Mike Rincon

Millennium softball overcame a six-run deficit to beat Tolleson, 7-6, April 7 and remain undefeated in 6A Southwest Region play.

The Lady Tigers (11-12, 5-0) kept pace with Westview for the top spot in the region with the victory, and improved to 10-2 in power-points games. Millennium is currently No. 12 in the 6A rankings, comfortably inside the top-24 playoff spots.

We want to control our own destiny, and that's where we're at,” Millennium coach Donnie Tizzano said. “We also know, as coaches, if we lose one of them, because our region isn't very strong, we'll fall seven, eight, nine places and probably miss the playoffs. We can't really afford to lose any games. Even though we control our own destiny, we have to control our own destiny or we'll probably be on the outside looking in.”

Millennium got off to a rough start against Tolleson. The Lady Wolverines jumped on top of Millennium with three runs in the top half of each the first and third innings to take a 6-0 lead.

Millennium got two runs back in the bottom of the third, and tied the game with a four-run fourth inning.

Junior Abby Westcott drove in the first run of the fourth by getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Senior Sarah Marek then scored on a wild pitch to make it 6-4. Senior Ciara Martinez walked to load the bases for senior DeNae Chatman. Chatman continued her torrid pace at the plate, smashing a two-run double off the left field wall to tie the game at 6-6.

She's a machine,” Tizzano said. “I don't know why people pitch to her. She's by far the best hitter; she's on a different level. She's just really, really, really good.”

An RBI double by Marek in the fifth gave Millennium the lead for good. The Tigers blanked Tolleson the rest of the way to hold on to the one-run victory.

Chatman went 2 for 3 with two doubles and two RBIs. Marek and junior Fiana Aird also went 2 for 3 apiece. Senior Nephi Ruiz drove in two runs.

Chatman is currently the top hitter in 6A, batting .688 with an on-base percentage of .730. She's tied for the fifth-highest average in the state across all conferences.

It helps having DeNae Chatman in your lineup,” Tizzano said. “She just hits everything hard. She's always going to give you a good at bat, and she's always hustling. I think, personally, she's the best hitter in the state, and she's a better teammate. She's always picking up the girls. She's the first one out of the dugout to give congratulations.”

Reigniting the fire

While the results have been positive, Tizzano said he's noticed a dip in focus over the last few games. It culminated with one of the girls not running out an infield pop fly, prompting Tizzano, in his first year at Millennium, to speak to the girls about it after the game.

We haven't played the toughest schedule, and we've kind of rolled through our last four opponents,” Tizzano said. “You could see it every time out, we were a little less engaged. The effort just wasn't there, and we kept seeing it and seeing it.”

Tizzano said the team's quest for a playoff berth will not come to fruition unless they pick up the effort.

Tolleson is pretty good, Westview is going to be our competition [for the region title] and [Surprise] Valley Vista always wants to beat us,” Tizzano said. “If we play like we played today, we're going to give those teams a chance to beat us, and that's what happened today. Hopefully, what we did after the game [running sprints] will ignite that fire back up.”

Tizzano has confidence the girls will be able to hone their focus for the remaining slate of games.

They're good kids and they work hard,” he said. “But, when you come here after a few years where, discipline-speaking wise, they've been less than stellar, you've got seniors who think they can kind of do what they want to do. [We have] 10 of them so you're trying to make sure you don't push too hard, but if you relax a little bit, you get what you got today.

I'm not really concerned about it, but it's always in the back of your mind that it could happen again.”

Millennium faced Tolleson again Tuesday. The result was not available at press time. The Lady Tigers travel to Mesa Mountain View at 4 p.m today and have a showdown with co-region leaders Westview at 3:45 p.m. Thursday on the road.

 

Shane McOwen can be reached at smcowen@westvalleyview.com or on Twitter @ShaneMcOwen.

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