The high school softball season has come and gone in Southern Arizona, with several teams reaching newfound heights on the diamond this spring.
We were treated to several memorable moments this year, such as the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks winning the 5A state title over Centennial. Several other programs made waves in the playoffs, including Canyon del Oro, Mountain View and Pusch Ridge Christian Academy—all of whom at least one playoff game in their division.
The Marana Tigers showed promise as well, winning their play-in round contest with Rincon/University High School, qualifying for the 5A playoffs for the second year in a row.
Without further ado, here’s who stood out the most in a crowded field of talented softball players in Southern Arizona:
11-2, 2.84 ERA, 76.1 innings, 93 strikeouts (19 walks)
Legarra is the most polished pitcher in the region, with a mixture of pitches at her disposal and a level of pinpoint control that few possess at this level. The tall junior dominated her opponents all year long, improving her gaudy three-year pitching total to 37-11 in the circle, with a 2.13 career ERA for the Dorados. Legarra should be the top pitcher in the region next year, along with Ironwood Ridge ace Shelby Thompson, which speaks to her unique skill set and poise in the pitcher’s circle for one of the most enduring softball dynasties in the state.
Ironwood Ridge junior
14-2, 3.45 ERA, 109.2 innings, 81 strikeouts (23 walks)
Thompson is the most dominant left-handed pitcher in the state right now, with a unique ability to pound the strike zone, while limiting opposing hitters like few others at this level. Her phenomenal junior season came to a close in the 5A championship game on Monday, May 13, when she tossed seven innings of two-run ball against Centennial, while stringing out five hits and making Centennial’s hitters lunge at and chase pitches out of the strike zone. Thompson and Legarra are the class of the state right now, in terms of pitching acumen, and should be two of the best arms Arizona has to offer a year from now.
Pusch Ridge Christian Academy senior
8-1, 1.77 ERA, 55.1 innings, 44 strikeouts (12 walks)
Jones was a key cog in the Lions’ pitching rotation this year, guiding the team to the 3A playoffs, where they upset third-seed Payson in the first round. Jones’ senior season showed her ability to frustrate opposing hitters, while limiting contact, as she was able to post an eye-popping 1.77 ERA this season. It was a tossup to choose between Jones and fellow Lion, Kyrie Denny, for this spot, but Jones’ phenomenal ERA during the season earned her a spot on the list. Her season to-date was exceptional and showed what Pusch Ridge is capable of in a stacked 3A division.
Mountain View junior
(Win-loss record not posted), 1.75 ERA, 72 innings, 123 strikeouts (34 walks)
Niegocki emerged as an ace for second-year coach Ramon De La Ossa’s squad, as the Lions stormed toward the seventh seed in this year’s 5A playoffs. The junior dazzled opposing hitters, posting an impressive 1.75 ERA in 72 innings of work in the pitcher’s circle, while striking out 123 hitters during that span. Niegocki’s pinpoint control and varying speeds enabled her to dominate hitters all year, posting an impressive 3.6-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio for the Lions.
Ironwood Ridge senior
.493, 37 hits, 25 RBIs, 27 runs scored, 10 doubles, 3 doubles, 6 home runs
Nisbett is one of the best defensive infielders in the state, with a bat that doesn’t allow pitchers off the hook very often. The future Team UK shortstop feasted on pitcher’s mistakes all year long, including her bomb of a solo home run in the 5A championship game. Nisbett, who is committed to play college ball at Midland College, is one of the most underrated players in the region, with a skill set that should catch the attention of Division I teams around the country. Her continued excellence, both at the plate and in the field, was a main reason for the Nighthawks’ fifth state title and merits her spot on this list.
Pusch Ridge Christian Academy freshman
.467, 42 hits, 45 RBIs, 37 runs scored, 14 doubles, 2 triples, 10 home runs
Denny emerged this season as one of, if not the most talented freshmen in the state, leading the Lions to the playoffs. Denny feasted on opposing pitchers all year long, posting a gaudy .467 average, while belting a team-high 10 home runs for the Lions. If that’s not enough, Denny also dominated in the pitcher’s circle, with an 8-7 record, a 3.45 ERA, and 136 strikeouts to her name in 119.2 innings pitched. She is a legitimate star in the making for the Lions and should find her name on this list for years to come.
.468, 36 hits, 25 runs scored, 25 RBIs, 4 doubles, 3 home runs
Wright emerged as a tour de force in George Corona’s lineup this season, posting a jaw-dropping .468 average in 23 games this year. The infielder had a team-high 36 hits, with three home runs for the Tigers. Wright and fellow underclassmen Kyana and Kyra Vieux should provide the backbone of the Tigers’ lineup for years to come, guiding Corona’s team farther than this year’s first round exit.
Mountain View senior
.439, 25 hits, 17 runs scored, 20 RBIs, 3 doubles, 3 triples, 2 home runs
Cordova was a key cog in the Lions’ offense this season, as the team got over the hump by winning a state playoff game in the ultra-competitive 5A division. Cordova emerged as a contact-hitting machine, with a team-high 25 hits and 20 RBIs for the Lions, while belting eight extra-base hits during the year. Mountain View is in good shape to contend for the 5A Sonoran region title in 2020, with Cordova and Niegocki leading the team forward, as they look to thwart Empire High School next season.
Ironwood Ridge senior
.474, 45 hits, 31 runs scored, 37 RBIs, 13 doubles, 7 home runs
Reid’s left-handed bat emerged as a key component in the Nighthawks’ state title run, belting extra base hits that guided the team to victory time and time again. The future Grand Canyon University Antelope finished her four-year run with a career average of .443, with 17 home runs, 121 RBIs and 190 hits to her name. The left-handed hitter should dominate her Division I foes through the next four years, giving the Arizona Wildcats and Arizona State Sun Devils a serious case of envy.
Catalina Foothills freshman
.444, 28 hits, 20 runs scored, 19 RBIs, 5 doubles, 3 triples
Crane was the center-piece offensively for a Falcons squad that struggled mightily this year, posting a 6-20 record. Crane excelled, however, posting a gaudy .444 average in her freshman campaign, while showing a glimmer of hope for the future of the Falcons’ program. Crane led the Falcons in all major offensive categories this season, with a solid mixture of speed and offensive prowess at her disposal. She also showed great baserunner acumen, posting a team-high 7 stolen bases in 21 games.
.512, 44 hits, 42 runs scored, 26 RBIs, 12 doubles, 1 triple, 5 home runs
Banales was an offensive juggernaut for the Dorados this spring, posting an eye-popping average, while providing some pop at the top of the team’s order. Banales somehow finished with an average above .500 for an entire year, which is almost unheard of at the high school or college level. The future New Mexico State Aggie dominated pitchers all year long, while also posting a team-high 12 steals in 17 attempts. Banales has been a joy to watch over the last couple of years and should continue her tear on both sides of the ball in Las Cruces.
Pusch Ridge Christian Academy senior
.371, 36 hits, 24 runs scored, 27 RBIs, 11 doubles, 1 triple
Graham emerged as the Lions’ senior leader offensively this season, providing solid hitting in the middle of the team’s order all year. The senior outfielder posted nine multi-hit games this year, showing her ability to put the ball in-play, which contributed to her 24 runs scored in 29 games played. Graham was a fundamental part of the Lions’ lineup all year, allowing the team to advance to the quarterfinals of the 16-team 3A playoffs.
Region Player of the Year: Jaiden Reid, Ironwood Ridge
Region Coach of the Year: Dave Martinez, Ironwood Ridge