Brianna Bryant

Winslow base runner Alyssa Barton slides across the plate, as River Valley catcher Brianna Bryant keeps the late throw in front of her in the top of the fifth inning during River Valley High School’s 12-2 loss to Winslow High School during the 3A state seminfinals at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex on Saturday afternoon. 

PHOENIX — The No. 1-seeded Lady Dust Devils played their worst game of the season in the state semifinal for the third year in a row.

The No. 5-seeded Winslow Lady Bulldogs came from behind to turn a close game into a 12-2 rout to advance into the final.

River Valley High School advanced into its third consecutive Arizona Interscholastic Association Softball 3A State Championships Final Four, only to lose to the Catalina High School Lady Falcons, the Empire High School Lady Ravens, and this year Winslow at the Rose Mofford Sports Complex in Phoenix.

“I can’t get over the semifinal hump,” said Dust Devils head coach Mark Ruckle. “We played our season, 26-5, we played our (butts) off, we were No. 1 all year, we played well (Friday) night and I was feeling good about them this morning.”

The Bulldogs jumped on the Dust Devils in the first inning.

Harleigh Scott doubled and moved to third on a fielder’s choice before starting pitcher Jordyn Johnson’s RBI single made it 1-0. 

River Valley’s Veronica Gonzales and Tianna Williams each singled with one out in the bottom of the first, but Johnson retired the next two Dust Devils to get out of the jam.

The Dust Devils tied it in the bottom of the second.

Oliva Yoney led off with a walk, Lily Hunt sacrificed Yoney to second; Yoney advanced to third when Korbyn Draper reached on an error and later scored on a wild pitch.

River Valley took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third.

Williams walked, Kortney Fletcher singled Williams to second and Williams scored when Yoney reached on an error.

Although the Dust Devils took the lead, they stranded runners on second and third with one out.

“We were not productive when we had runners in scoring position,” Ruckle said. “We didn’t produce when we needed to produce. We got runners on and we didn’t knock them in.”

Ruckle said he told his Dust Devils in the third and fourth innings that they did not produce when they had runners in scoring position with the 2-1 lead.

Ruckle said he told his players: “We let them hang on there.”

Ryann Glenn doubled with two outs in the fourth, but she also was left stranded.

Winslow went ahead in its fifth.

Justine Butterfield hit a one-out home run over the center-field fence to tie it at 2-2. Then Kaleb Clyde singled and advanced to second on an error, and Scott singled home courtesy runner Shea Hansen to make it 3-2. 

Right-handed pitcher Butterfield came in to relieve Johnson, who suffered an injury diving for a ball, in the fifth inning.

The Bulldogs added two more runs in their sixth.

Alyssa Barton doubled, Scott singled her to third and Maycee Cunningham’s sacrifice fly scored Barton, to make it 4-2.

Johnson, who had been injured in the fifth, returned and reached on an error, which scored Scott to make it 5-2.

The Bulldogs tallied seven runs in the top of the seventh.

Johnson doubled and scored; Morgan Thomas doubled, scored and had an RBI; Chloe Wilcox singled, scored and had an RBI; Clyde had an RBI single; and four miscues added to the Dust Devils’ demise.

Johnson pitched four innings to earn the victory. Dust Devils senior Ashley Carter threw six-plus innings to take the loss.

The Bulldogs will play at 7:45 p.m. on Tuesday at Farrington Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., against the No. 11-seeded Sahuarita High School Lady Mustangs for the 3A state title.

The Mustangs stampeded the No. 7-seeded Empire Ravens, who were the defending champions, 14-4 in the other semfinal game.

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