In a season filled with struggles, injuries, and sicknesses, Desert Vista's softball team continues to fight.
Emily Panther exemplified the team's character Wednesday night, filling in admirably in the pitcher's circle in Desert Vista's 5-1 loss against Desert Mountain.
Desert Vista (6-16) was without its top two pitchers, Shea Koepnick and Danielle Block, against Class 5A Division II's top-ranked Desert Mountain.
Desert Vista coach Chris Crowl called upon Panther to pitch against one of the most formidable offenses in the state, and she did her job.
"She did exactly what we asked her to do," Crowl said. "She went out and gave us a chance. She threw strikes and pitched very valiantly."
Panther pitched a complete game, giving up five runs (four earned) on nine hits while striking out two.
However, her offense was unable to pick her up. Desert Mountain pitcher Andy Wellins dominated the Thunder, allowing only three hits and one unearned run to go along with 11 strikeouts.
Two of those hits came from Sierra Ulhrich who seemed to be on the only one to figure out Wellins.
Desert Mountain (21-4) rebounded after a disappointing loss Thursday to Horizon. Wolves coach Rick Sharp was pleased with a win, but feels his team is sluggish right now.
"I think we're flat," Sharp said. "Desert Vista played a nice game today. Their pitcher did a nice job and hit her spots, but we were flat."
The usually potent Desert Mountain offense did not come up with timely hits, a testament to Panther's will to keep her team in the game.
"We are waiting for somebody to break open an inning, and we're not doing it," Sharp said.
Panther shut down the top of the order, but it was Desert Mountain's Jessica Guffey batting fifth, that did damage for the Wolves. Guffey finished 3-for-3 with a double and two RBIs.
The Thunder fell behind 4-0 in the third inning after a close play at the plate with two outs did not go their way.
Wolves' shortstop Kasey McCravey made a nifty move at home to avoid catcher Alyssa Ceminara's tag, putting the Wolves up 3-0. They would tack on another run later that inning and cruised until the seventh inning.
The Thunder scored its lone run in the seventh and had runners on second and third with one out, before Wellins shut them down.
"This team does not lose its character," Crowl said. "They continue to fight."
In the end, Desert Mountain's all-around talent offensively and defensively proved to be too much for Desert Vista.
Even when overmatched, the Thunder has players like Emily Panther that will give the team a chance to succeed.
"She battled her tail off for us," Crowl said. "That's all you can ask for. That says a lot about her and her character."
Kemp is a freshman studying journalism at Arizona State.