Seven innings sometimes aren’t enough to determine a winner in a rivalry game between Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista.
Eight, nine and 10 innings sometimes aren’t even enough.
It took 11 innings Friday night for the Pride to beat the Thunder 6-4 on the road. They did so behind some clutch hitting and one of the team’s best pitching performances of the season.
“Ciara (Gonzales) had her best game,” Mountain Pointe coach Mel Wendell said. “She threw 11 innings and she only got better as the game went on. She carried us with that.”
Gonzales allowed four runs on 13 hits with three walks and 12 strikeouts in the complete game as the Pride improved to 11-16 overall and 8-6 in power point games.
For the Pride, a lot of Gonzales’ strikeouts couldn’t have come at better times.
After an error from her defense allowed Desert Vista to tie the game at 4 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Gonzales preceded to strikeout the side in the seventh. Had it not been for another error in the eighth, she would have done the same thing.
As the game progressed, one thing was clear: Gonzales, who recently committed to Santa Clara, had anger behind her pitches and was pitching better because of it.
“I got angry after a while,” Gonzales said. “I wanted to win really bad.”
On the other side of the pitching duel for the Thunder was junior Danielle Block. Block also pitched 11 innings, but allowed six runs on nine hits with four walks and nine strikeouts.
“The pitching today was sensational,” said Desert Vista coach Chris Crowl, who saw his team's eight-game win streak come to an end. “Their pitcher pitched a whale of a ballgame. Dani ... found a great rhythm and got things going.”
With Gonzales pitching the way she was, Crowl was proud the Thunder (16-9, 10-4) were able to manage 13 hits.
“I give them a lot of credit,” Crowl said. “They came through when they needed to. Unfortunately for us, we had a couple of mistakes that hurt us a little bit.”
The error that hurt Desert Vista the most was the one that sealed the victory for the Pride. With two on and two out in the 11th, Mountain Pointe senior Nyla Wambold hit the ball to left field, where it was dropped, allowing the two winning runs to cross home plate.
The hit was huge for Wambold who was having a hard time figuring out Block and finished 1-for-6 with 4 RBIs. Offensive standouts for the Pride included junior Chandler Hillman, who went 2-for-4 with a walk and Gonzales, batting from the fourth spot in the lineup, who went 1-for-3 with three walks and an RBI.
“It’s something we’ve been working on all year: How do we maintain that intensity (necessary to win) for seven innings?” Wendell said. “This time we maintained it for 11. We carry that confidence into our next games.”
For the Thunder, senior Emily Panther had a great day at the plate, going 3-for-6 with three RBIs. Sophomore Michaela Duarte also managed to go 3-for-6 with three runs.
“It’s unfortunate somebody has to lose in that situation,” Crowl said. “The difference between winning and losing are the little things.”
• Chris Cole is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a sophomore at Arizona State University.