Jaiden Reid had a premonition in the final inning of Tuesday’s first round softball playoff game as she stood in the field. The senior, who was 2-for-2 at the plate to that point of the Ironwood Ridge Nighthawks’ opening round game against Glendale’s Ironwood, got her shot in the bottom of the seventh.
Reid didn’t miss, smashing a belt-high pitch over the left field wall for a game-ending, walk-off home run, giving the home side a thrilling 5-3 win in the 5A opening round clash.
Reid, who had three hits Tuesday, described said premonition during her postgame comments, mixing a healthy dose of disbelief with sheer excitement.
“I was just trying to stay as calm as possible,” she said. “It was funny, when we were fielding, I was telling myself, ‘I’m going to have to walk this thing off right here.’ Not to be cocky, but I just knew I was going to do it.”
Her heroics led to a team wide celebration that caused players and coaches alike to sputter as they tried to come up with words to describe what occurred.
For coach Dave Martinez, his team’s ability to come back from a 3-2 deficit in the game’s sixth inning, combined with Reid’s seventh inning homer, showed what the collective is capable of.
“They’re just mentally tough, man,” Martinez said. “These kids are just good, good kids and they work their tails off. And they’re mentally tough. The girls did a good job of doing that today, it was fun.”
Junior pitcher Shelby Thompson, who surrendered three runs in seven innings of work, touched on the long road the Nighthawks have in front of them to contend for a state title.
“I mean the road to state is never easy, so I think there's always work to be done even after a good win like this,” Thompson said. “I think we still have stuff to work on at practice tomorrow. We just learn what we need to fix from today and go into tomorrow positive.”
Martinez knows that his team’s high seeding in the 16-team tournament won’t give them a smooth path to Tempe, where the 5A final is held. He added that the third-seeded Nighthawks, who face sixth seed Empire at 4 p.m. this Thursday, May 2, have their work cut out going forward.
He hopes the team can learn a lot from Tuesday’s first round, which is the lone round that’s single-elimination in the tournament, so they can come out fired up on Thursday.
“These kids aren't coming all the way down from Phoenix or Glendale just to play one game,” Martinez said. “They want to get in. And they're a good program. They're an up and coming program.”
For Reid, the theme of Tuesday afternoon was the Nighthawks never-say-die mentality, which allowed them to fight back against Ironwood.
She believes that fighting spirit should help them as the tournament progresses, as Martinez’s program looks for its third state title in school history.
“We're just fighters. There's never an inning or time of the game where it's always over,” Reid said. “There’s always time for us. I never feel like my senior season's going to come to an end because we flip a switch it feels like and just get right back in the games.”
Around the Region
Elsewhere in Southern Arizona on Tuesday, the seventh-seeded Mountain View Lions defeated 10th seed Cactus Shadows in the 5A opening round, 10-5.
The Lions face second seed Centennial at 4 p.m. on the road this Thursday, May 2, with the winner playing the victor between Ironwood Ridge and Empire next Tuesday, May 7.
In 4A, the sixth seeded Canyon Del Oro Dorados defeated 11th seed Cactus Shadows, 6-0, Tuesday.
The Dorados play third seed Bradshaw Mountain in Prescott Valley at 4 p.m. this Thursday, May 2, with the winner playing the victor between Poston Butte and Cactus High School next Tuesday, May 7.