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Desert Region: Ashley Ward blanks Basic as Cougars clinch crown

Last season, needing one win to clinch the Sunrise Region tournament championship, Coronado lost to Basic 9-1 and 15-12 to cede the tournament title to the Wolves.

On Friday at Foothill, Basic once again stood between the Cougars and a region tournament title.

But this time senior hurler Ashley Ward made sure history did not repeat itself.

Ward tossed a two-hit shutout over six innings as Coronado rolled to the championship with a 10-0 victory. Aleah Baldonado’s single in the bottom of the sixth brought home Tori Jones to invoke the 10-run mercy rule and end the game.

“A lot this goes back to last year,” said Coronado coach Missy Krueger. “A lot of the girls remembered that feeling. This year, this team wanted it and they all stepped up.”

The Cougars advance to the Southern Nevada Championship game at noon Saturday at Bishop Gorman. By reaching Friday’s Desert championship game, Coronado (26-7) and Basic (27-9) clinched berths in the Class 4A state tournament, which begins Thursday at Gorman.

Despite giving up a single to open the game, Ward said she felt strong from the outset.

“I was very calm and very ready. I was just in a zone,” said Ward. “I had a good warmup and it helped me really get into the game. I was super excited. Even though I let I hit go, I knew my defense was behind me.”

Ward, who struck out six and issued no walks, also gave Coronado the lead for good in the first inning with an RBI single to drive in Paige Snicki.

“She plays hard and plays the right way,” Krueger said of Ward. “And she just has this will to win. She is such a competitor and just really wanted it this year.”

Ward finished 2-for-3 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored.

Jones went 3-for-3 for Coronado, including a two-run single in the third that padded the Cougar lead to 4-0 to give Ward some added cushion.

Sydney Smith and Madison Stephens had two hits and an RBI apiece for Coronado.

“I am so proud of my teammates and how they stepped up. We really pulled for each other,” said Ward. “I have been dreaming of this since I was a freshman. I’m just so happy and so proud of everybody.”

Krueger said this was the kind of win that can give Coronado momentum heading into state next week.

“Just having good at-bats, playing solid defense like we did today, I think that really helps your confidence,” said Krueger. “(State) is totally wide open. It will be a fun game (Saturday), it should be a fun tournament next week, and I am excited we will be out there still playing. To be one of six teams still playing is a good thing.”

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