SUNSET SOFTBALL: Cara Beatty’s homers power Palo Verde

Palo Verde’s softball team needed something — a cup of coffee or maybe an energy drink — to snap out of its Saturday morning slumber.

With neither of those available, Cara Beatty provided the Panthers with the necessary pick-me-up.

Beatty hit two home runs, including a grand slam in the fourth inning, and Palo Verde awakened for a 9-2 victory over Sierra Vista in the Class 4A Sunset Region championship at Bishop Gorman.

The Panthers (34-5), who earned their third region title in the past four years, advance to the state tournament that starts Thursday.

“It was going to be someone and it just so happened to be Cara,” Palo Verde coach Kelly Glass said. “Her timing was down. She was swinging hard, and that’s all I ever ask of her is pick a good pitch to hit and swing hard.”

Beatty, who has signed with UNLV, finished 2-for-4 with six RBIs, and teammate Ally Snelling was 3-for-4 with a double, triple and homer.

Sierra Vista (26-6) scored two runs in the top of the first, but Beatty tied the score in the bottom of the inning with a two-run blast to dead center.

In the bottom of the fourth, Palo Verde loaded the bases thanks to a walk and one-out hits from Camden Zahn and Lauryn Barker. Beatty then followed with her ninth homer of the season to give the Panthers an 8-2 advantage.

“I think that when we came out we were confident, and then when they scored their runs, we knew we had to answer back,” Beatty said. “I just wanted to go out for Taylor (Askland) and get her runs so she could be comfortable pitching. Overall, we were just trying to hit the ball hard and back up our pitcher.”

Askland walked in a run and allowed an RBI single to Sierra Vista’s Daelynn Hilton in the top of the first inning, but settled down and allowed three hits the rest of the way.

Askland went the distance and struck out three while working around five walks.

Richmond Garcia was 2-for-3, and Zahn drove in a run for the Panthers, who have won 16 straight games overall.

Hilton was 2-for-3, and Taylore Edwards was 1-for-2 with bloop double in the second inning for Sierra Vista. Pinch hitter Taylor DeGuzman had the Mountain Lions’ other hit in the seventh.

“These girls have literally grasped the idea of never take a moment off and work hard every day,” Glass said. “That was kind of our thing last year. We kind of just walked on the field instead of working hard all the time. This year, they have been working hard every moment. Every practice, every pitch, every swing.”