Somehow, the Arizona high school softball regular season has come to its final two weeks. And while many traditional powerhouses have established themselves as genuine state championship contenders, they are joined by a handful of upstarts few expected to compete in February.
Here are the top 10 Republic teams in the state:
1. Surprise Willow Canyon (22-2)
Since an extra win over Lake Havasu City on March 23, Willow Canyon hasn’t been in all 10 races. The Wildcats are rolling with the playoffs in sight.
2. Tucson Salpointe Catholic (20-2)
Heading into Wednesday’s rivalry showdown, Canyon del Oro – who entered at 22-1-1 – must have been feeling good about their chances of winning the 4A crown from Salpointe Catholic. The Lancers, however, only reasserted their dominance over Tucson and 4A, winning 14-3 behind a balanced offensive effort. Seven Lancers made runs in the win.
3. Tucson Canyon del Oro (24-2-1)
Despite this loss to Salpointe Catholic, Canyon del Oro remains a strong 4A contender. The Dorados have mostly knocked out teams lately, but their 7-6 win over Tucson Sunnyside in 11 innings on Saturday showed a resilience they’ll need in the state tournament.
4. Phoenix Desert Vista (20-5)
What a stretch for the Thunder. Since shutting down Phoenix Xavier Prep in a 1-0 victory on March 25, Chris Crowl’s side have won seven in a row, including Thursday’s 4-1 win over Queen Creek. The star, both late in the season and during the season, was ace Jocelyn Briski, who last gave up an earned run on March 24.
5. Phoenix Xavier Preparation (14-4)
After suffering back-to-back shock losses in the last week of March, the Gators have begun to regain the form that made them 6A champions last year and presumed favorites this winter. They have won four in a row, including a 5-0 victory over Chandler Basha in revenge for their 10-0 loss on March 22.
6. Queen Creek (17-4)
Thursday’s aforementioned loss to Desert Vista ended an 11-game winning streak in which the Bulldogs cemented their place as 6A contenders. Wednesday’s trip to Gilbert Perry is a perfect opportunity to bounce back.
7.Gilbert Perry (19-3)
In 18 games, Perry hadn’t lost to a single Arizona opponent. The Pumas have since come across Xavier Prep and, more surprisingly, Tempe Corona del Sol. Still, they remain No. 2 in the AIA’s 6A rankings and have every chance of returning to a groove in a stacked Premier Division.
8. Waddell Canyon View (17-5)
Since pushing Willow Canyon to 14 innings on March 18, we know Canyon View is a legitimate 5A contender. Tuesday’s 2-1 win over Lake Havasu was a good reminder, though.
9. Phoenix Sunnyslope (21-1)
Sunnyslope continues to be Sunnyslope – playing bad teams and beating them with impressive ease. The Vikings are still only 11th in the AIA’s 6A rankings, but that looks tough for a team with just one loss this season.
10. Mesa Mountain View
Mountain View’s victory on March 29 over Red Mountain was its first in five years. While the win meant a lot to the Toros outside of the context of the 6A ranking, it also reaffirmed their belief that they were under-ranked at No.12 in the initial AIA release.
Theo Mackie covers Arizona high school sports and Phoenix Rising FC. He can be reached by email at [email protected] and on Twitter @theo_mackie.