Focused Bulldogs notch rare win over Palo Verde

Maybe it was a hint of things to come.

But just after Centennial’s softball team had loosened up its arms on Friday at Palo Verde, outfielder Madison Henzlik came into the dugout, looked at her coaches and said, “That was the most focused I’ve ever seen us in warmups.”

Only a sophomore, Henzlik probably hasn’t seen many warmups, but the Bulldogs certainly looked sharp on the field.

Sparked by a two-run triple from Henzlik in the top of the second inning, Centennial sprinted to a 5-0 lead and downed the Panthers, 9-3.

“That’s the thing we talked about after the game was how focused we were,” Centennial coach Mike Livreri said. “They were prepared. They were silent in their preparation, but they came ready to play.”

The Panthers had won the last 10 meetings between the teams, including all seven last year. The last Centennial win in the series came on April 28, 2009.

Yet, Centennial (18-6, 7-1 Northwest League) didn’t look like a team with a lengthy skid against its archrival.

Henzlik led off the game with a single. She was erased on Mia Acuna’s fielder’s choice, but Acuna eventually scored the game’s first run on a two-out wild pitch.

The two-run triple by Henzlik made it 3-0, and Acuna followed with an RBI single to build the lead to 4-0.

Bailie Nelson’s RBI single in the third inning gave the Bulldogs a 5-0 lead before Palo Verde (17-6, 6-2) even had a hit.

“The early lead felt good,” Livreri said. “It gave our defense some cushion.

“It feels great to finally be on the winning side of this matchup.”

The Panthers seriously threatened only once, trimming the margin to 5-2 in the fourth inning on an RBI hit by Lauren Oxford and Mackenzie McBride’s sacrifice fly. Centennial pitcher Kate Rauskin got a bases-loaded groundout to end the inning.

Rauskin, who struck out four, danced around trouble, allowing eight hits and five walks and hitting three batters. Centennial played errorless defense behind her.

“Kate had a great game,” Livreri said. “She used the defense, and the defense played well behind her. When we’re playing good defense, we’re a really good team.”

Nelson was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs, and Henzlik finished 2-for-5 with the triple and two RBIs for Centennial, which also got two hits apiece from Acuna, Savannah Horvath and Alyssa Finger.

Melissa Lacro was 2-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI, and Angel Council went 2-for-4 with an RBI for Palo Verde.