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Lady Owls fighting to secure playoff spot

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Shane McOwen's picture
IELEEN GUARDADO, right, of Agua Fria rounds third base while Desiree Cabrerra trails closely behind April 12 at Agua Fria. The Lady Owls beat Independence 10-0 and are close to securing a spot in the 5A state playoffs.  View photo by Ray Thomas
IELEEN GUARDADO, right, of Agua Fria rounds third base while Desiree Cabrerra trails closely behind April 12 at Agua Fria. The Lady Owls beat Independence 10-0 and are close to securing a spot in the 5A state playoffs. View photo by Ray Thomas

No. 22 Agua Fria has 4 games to cement place in postseason

The Agua Fria softball team rebounded from its longest stretch of adversity this season in a big way, blasting past Glendale Independence 10-0 April 12.

The Lady Owls were on the losing end of three straight games coming into the contest, dropping close games against region foes Phoenix Deer Valley and Desert Edge, and were run-ruled 12-2 by Queen Creek, the No. 8 ranked team in 5A. Agua Fria lost the series finale to Phoenix Deer Valley 11-10 April 7, then dropped the game to Queen Creek on April 10 before falling to Desert Edge in another close contest, 3-1, on April 11.

Agua Fria coach Javier Cabrera said the team missed a few opportunities here and there, costing it a chance to win the games.

They were close games,” Cabrera said. “We kind of shot ourselves in the foot several times. It happens. It’s a learning process. You can’t go toe to toe or lead a game and have errors, because they come back to haunt you.”

Against Deer Valley, Agua Fria scored four runs in the seventh inning to take a one-run lead, 10-9. The Lady Skyhawks had the last word, sending the game into extra innings by scoring one in the bottom of the seventh, then winning the game with a walk-off run in the eighth.

Agua Fria shook off the big defeat to Queen Creek to battle in a low-scoring affair against Desert Edge the next day. Agua Fria tied the game in the bottom of the sixth, but surrendered two runs in the top of the seventh to lose 3-1.

We battled,” Cabrera said. “It was tied up for a while. Finally, at the end, they hit a little blooper over the infield and they took the lead, and we couldn’t come back.”

Agua Fria was able to apply the lessons learned in the losses, and took out its frustrations in its game against Independence.

The Lady Owls jumped out to a 4-0 lead after the first inning and never looked back. Ieleen Guardado hit a three-run home run to start the scoring.

After a scoreless second, the Lady Owls added two runs in each of the third, fourth and fifth innings to complete the run-rule victory.

Desiree Cabrera excelled in the circle, no-hitting the Lady Patriots over five innings, only walking two. She also hit a two-run, inside-the-park home run in the third inning.

Coach Cabrera, in his second-year with the team, said the Lady Owls have been playing relaxed lately, trying not to press too much on the field.

[The losses] were tough, now we’re kind of just having fun with it and seeing what we can get,” Cabrera said. “Hopefully, we can pull off some wins and get back into it. Right now, we’re not doing too bad, but we’re on the brink of the playoffs. We’re still in, but we’ve got to make sure.”

To Cabrera, one of the biggest issues of the season has been fielding mistakes, he said. To the girls’ credit, they’ve begun to shift that narrative in a positive direction in the last few weeks, the coach said.

The last couple of games have been great, they’ve minimized the errors,” Cabrera said. “They went from 11 errors in one game to having two [against Queen Creek], and today [against] Independence, we had one. Errors are what kill us … I can’t say they lost the game, but they’ve had a lot of opportunities to not have five losses. They’re finally understanding that. In reality, you guys gave four of them away. They’re realizing they’re better than that.”

 

Improvement

The Lady Owls closed out the week to win the rematch with Desert Edge, 5-2, on April 13. Agua Fria is currently ranked No. 22, just inside the postseason cutoff spot, which is 24th. While most playoff-bubble teams deal with an expanded amount of stress during the final weeks of the season, Cabrera is trying to focus the girls’ attention inward, rather than worry about what’s going on in the standings around them, he said.

At this point, it’s more stressing to get better and trying to win the rest of the games if you can,” Cabrera said. “At this point, the past is the past. That was yesterday. All you can do is look to the future and keep winning, and try to get a spot in the playoffs and do well.”

Agua Fria’s remaining four games come against teams ranked above it in 5A: Verrado, No. 6, and Lake Havasu, No. 21.

It would be hard not to go to the playoffs, but we still have a possibility,” Cabrera said. “We have Verrado twice, and they’re in our region. If we can get through them, that’s what we need.”

Regardless of how the season shakes out, the Lady Owls have a bright future. Agua Fria will lose only three seniors, and expect to be in the mix next year with an entire season’s worth of experience under its belt.

We’re trying to groom for next year, too,” Cabrera said. “We’re a young team, to be honest, because we’re only losing three seniors and we had seven last year. They’re a young squad, and they’re going to get better and better. It’s going to be exciting.”

Agua Fria faced Verrado at home Tuesday in the first game of a two-game series. The result was not available at press time. The Lady Owls travel to Verrado Thursday, first pitch scheduled at 6 p.m., and will wrap up the season with a double header against Lake Havasu at home April 24. The first game will start at 3 p.m.

 

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

 



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