There are upsets and then there’s what happened on Tuesday night in a play-in game for the Class 5A state playoffs in Arizona.
In that state, teams must win a play-in game to get into the double-elimination portion of each bracket and the top-seeded teams are matched up against a No. 16 seed.
For Class 5A, unbeaten, top-seed and nationally ranked Sunrise Mountain (Peoria, Ariz.) was facing a team from Sunnyslope (Phoenix, Ariz.) that was barely above .500 (15-14) and had lost twice in two earlier games against the Mustangs.
Sunrise Mountain, which was No. 9 in last week’s Extra Elite Eighty, led in the play-in game 4-1 going into the seventh inning. But it all ended for the Mustangs in a flash. Sunnyslope plated five runs in a stunning last at-bat, pulled off a 6-4 upset and everything ended so quickly for Sunrise Mountain.
Since the loss came in a play-in game, Sunrise Mountain’s hopes for the Class 5A state title and potentially finishing unbeaten on the season were all gone seemingly in an instant. Now, the girls will have to watch from the sidelines as a number of teams they’ve beaten this season will battle it out for that state title.
The Arizona stunner is a great lesson for teams everywhere that it can take just one bad inning for everything to be quashed. It’s not just one bad inning in any game, but a game in which a loss results in the season being over.
Regardless, it was still an outstanding season for the Mustangs. They only lost the one game and may still gain a spot in the final Extra Elite Eighty national rankings. They dropped from No. 9 to No. 40 this week with future moves depending on what else happens in the various Arizona state playoffs.
Speaking of state playoffs, many of the top teams in this week’s rankings also will be starting post-season play.
Top-ranked Lakewood Ranch will be in its district championship this week and will be going for the Class 8A state title in Florida.
No. 2 Cedar Ridge will be in the Class 6A state playoffs in Texas and keep in mind it’s possible for a Texas team to lose a game in its state playoffs and move on if that team goes 2-1 in a best-of-three series.
No. 3 Norco (Calif.) doesn’t have state playoffs in California to deal with, but almost all of the top teams in Southern California will be in the insanely loaded CIF Southern Section Division I playoffs. That’s because in the CIF Southern Section competitive equity is used to place teams in various divisions and not enrollment. Norco’s first playoff game will be next week after getting a first-round bye.
One top team that already has lost a state playoff game is No. 31 Neshoba Central (Philadelphia, Miss.). The Rockets fell in the first game of a three-game series to Grenada (Miss.), but came back to beat Grenada twice and are continuing on in the MHSAA 5A state playoffs.
Too bad the girls at Sunrise Mountain didn’t get the same opportunity.
(Previous ranking in parentheses)
(Through games of Tuesday, April 30)
1. (1) Lakewood Ranch (Bradenton, Fla.) 24-0
2. (2) Cedar Ridge (Round Rock, Texas) 30-0
3. (3) Norco (Norco, Calif.) 27-1
4. (4) Foothill (Pleasanton, Calif.) 21-0
5. (5) Winter Springs (Winter Springs, Fla.) 25-0
6. (6) Katy (Katy, Texas) 24-2
7. (7) Keystone (LaGrange, Ohio) 19-0
8. (8) Klein Collins (Klein, Texas) 30-2
9. (11) Coral Springs Charter (Coral Springs, Fla.) 23-1
10. (12) Keller (Keller, Texas) 27-3-1