SUNSET SOFTBALL: Kalei Watkins, Sierra Vista lower boom on Shadow Ridge

Updated May 10, 2017 - 10:19 pm

Before each of Kalei Watkins’ at-bats, the AC/DC song “Thunderstruck” blasts over the speakers at Sierra Vista.

The Mountain Lions’ senior standout showed why Wednesday.

Watkins sent a bolt of energy through the home fans with a grand slam in the fourth inning, and host Sierra Vista claimed a 6-1 win over Shadow Ridge in a winners’ bracket semifinal of the Class 4A Sunset Region softball tournament.

Sierra Vista (25-4) meets host Palo Verde (32-5) at 4 p.m. Thursday in a battle of league champions, with the winner advancing to the region final.

“We’ve known Shadow Ridge has been crushing up north,” Sierra Vista coach Raul Almaguer said. “We knew that if we’re going to be the best, we were going to have to beat them. Our girls again were loose, confident, aggressive and fearless.”

Holarose Nakayama was 2-for-4 with a double and an RBI, and Jessica Schneider added a run-scoring double in the first inning for Sierra Vista.

Shadow Ridge (24-8) trailed 2-0 in the top of the fourth and loaded the bases with one out. But Watkins retired the next two batters on a strikeout and pop out to escape the jam and shift momentum back to the Mountain Lions.

“I felt there was more energy in the dugout, the girls were more excited about it,” Watkins said. “I feel like it woke them up even more than what we were already at.”

Watkins then delivered the big hit with two outs in the bottom half of the fourth.

Watkins took two close pitches before she smashed a 3-and-2 offering from Mustangs reliever Alyssa Stanley over the left-field fence for her area-best 16th homer of the season.

“When she came up to bat, I knew we were going to be coming out ahead,” Almaguer said. “When it came to a full count, there was only going to be one way. I was already visualizing it going over the fence, and sure enough they pitched her down the middle, and the best got the best of it.”

Watkins went the distance, allowing six hits and striking out two. She also got plenty of help from her defense, including two key plays by right fielder Harmony Dominguez.

Shadow Ridge finally broke through against Watkins in the seventh on Mia Voges’ run-scoring double. The Mustangs host Centennial (24-13) in an elimination game at 4 p.m. Thursday.

“We knew they were a really good team and we had to be ready for it,” Watkins said. “And we just brought it.”

Palo Verde 14, Desert Oasis 4 — At Palo Verde, Makall Whetten hit a three-run home run, and Makena Martin added a two-run shot to help the Panthers pound the Diamondbacks (29-6) in five innings in a winners’ bracket semifinal.

Ally Snelling was 2-for-3 with a double and four RBIs, and Grace Chavez was 2-for-3 with three RBIs for Palo Verde.

Camden Zahn was 4-for-4 for Palo Verde, which scored five runs in the third and seven more in the fourth.

Meagan Anders hit a three-run homer in the fifth, and Elsy Guzman hit a solo home run in the fourth for Desert Oasis, which hosts Arbor View (15-14) in an elimination game at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Centennial 15, Bishop Gorman 5 — At Centennial, Jaden Tate was 3-for-3 with two doubles and three RBIs to power the Bulldogs by the Gaels (12-22) in an elimination game.

Seanna Simpson went 2-for-3 with two RBIs, and Jillian Bartley smacked a solo home run for Centennial.

Abby Hanley earned the win in the circle for the Bulldogs.

Monique Passalacqua belted a two-run home run for Gorman, which got two hits apiece from Mia Weckel and Hannah Gondini.

Arbor View 12, Durango 7 — At Arbor View, the Aggies beat the Trailblazers (23-11) in an elimination game. The outcome was under protest.