Melissa Lacro watched patiently from the on-deck circle in the eighth inning Saturday as Centennial’s softball team intentionally walked Melissa McCormick.
The Palo Verde freshman had seen almost the same scenario take place two innings before, and the result then couldn’t have been worse for the Panthers.
Lacro made sure the Bulldogs paid for the intentional walk the second time.
Lacro looped a single just beyond third base with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, scoring Breanna Beatty with the winning run and giving Palo Verde its second straight Sunset Region title with a 2-1 win over Centennial at Bishop Gorman.
“It just was time,” Palo Verde coach Kelly Glass said. “She had a different approach at the plate. She’s just a calm, cool, collected, super smart kid.”
The Panthers (29-8) advance to the Class 4A state tournament, which begins Friday at UNLV.
Centennial (23-12) will face Liberty (22-12) in a play-in game at 3:30 p.m. Monday at Gorman to determine the final state berth.
With the score tied at 1 in the bottom of the sixth and Beatty on second with one out, the Bulldogs tried to intentionally walk McCormick, arguably the Panthers’ most dangerous weapon.
After Centennial committed an illegal pitch that moved Beatty to third, McCormick surprisingly tried to bunt an intentional ball and hit into an out that left Beatty at third.
Lacro grounded out to end the inning.
“That at-bat in the sixth, she was kind of swinging out of her zone,” Glass said.
Beatty doubled with two outs in the eighth, and Centennial again pitched around McCormick to face Lacro, who had flied out and sacrificed in her first two trips.
Lacro got just enough of Katelynn Rauskin’s 1-0 pitch to loop the ball over Centennial third baseman Savannah Horvath and into left field.
Beatty read the ball well and easily scored from second to hand the Panthers their fifth win in five tries against the Bulldogs this season.
“I was pressing more the first time, and this time I was more relaxed,” Lacro said. “I was just trying to get it through the infield, trying to move the runner, maybe score her.”
Palo Verde took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on Rachel Williams’ two-out double and Danielle Hearn’s RBI single to right.
But unlike the previous four meetings, when the Panthers were largely the sharper team defensively, Palo Verde made two crucial mistakes Saturday, giving Centennial life.
The Bulldogs still trailed 1-0 with two outs and a runner at first in the top of the sixth inning when Taylor Huntly hit what should have been an inning-ending grounder to third.
Instead of taking the out at first, the Panthers tried for a force at second and threw the ball into right field, allowing Heather Bowen to score from first.
In the top of the eighth, a fielding error loaded the bases with two outs for Kylie Bartlett, but McCormick got a popout to short to end the threat.
“We just stayed relaxed, stayed positive,” Glass said. “It happens. We’re not perfect, but we help each other out.”
McCormick threw a seven-hitter and struck out two.