Head coach Amy Baray-Rocha already knew what it was like to win a softball state title for Tucson Salpointe Catholic. She won as a freshman in 1993 and a senior in 1996.

In 2015, her first year as head coach at her alma mater, Baray-Rocha brought her squad back to the title game, where they lost to Vail Cienega, 9-2. The 1996 game remained Salpointe’s most recent championship, until Tuesday, when a team that hadn’t even been born yet helped Baray-Rocha return the trophy to Tucson. 

No. 5 Salpointe edged out No. 3 Glendale Cactus 2-0 to win the 4A softball state title at ASU Farrington Stadium. 

“To me, that was so gratifying to be on the other side and see all that take place,” Baray-Rocha said. “It’s more special, and the reason why it’s more special is that I saw the heart that these players have and how they pressed every day to get to this moment.”

A late drive in the top of the sixth inning gave Salpointe (33-4-1) the lead in a defensive battle.

Salpointe freshman pitcher Alyssa Aguilar allowed just three hits, as her defense stranded four Cactus runners on base. 

“My change-up was really working,” Aguilar said. “I got a lot of batters on that one.’ 

Cactus (30-5) was anchored by freshman pitcher McKenna Feringa, who struck out five in six innings. In the top of the third, she struck out three Salpointe batters in a row, all looking. The two freshmen pitchers will play club softball together this summer. 

After five innings of play, the teams were knotted at 0, with just five hits between the two of them. However, in the top of the sixth, Salpointe finally found a way to get on the scoreboard.

Right fielder Alyssa Ortiz started off the inning with a single, just barely beating out the throw from third, as both crowds erupted.     

This brought up center fielder Yannira Acuna and the top of the order. Acuna sent a pitch deep to left field, over the head of Cactus left fielder Kaiulani Nowell. Ortiz scored as the Cactus throw to home plate missed the mark. Acuna, who had already reached third, sprinted home as well, as her teammates spilled out of the Salpointe dugout to meet her. Cactus was charged with an error on the throw.  

“That was her heads up play. That’s how Yannira plays the game,” Baray-Rocha said. “She’s always looking. … That’s why she’s so scary on the bases for opponents.”

With no outs and a fresh 2-0 lead, Malaea Rocha came up to bat. Rocha singled in the fourth, hitting it about five feet in front of the plate and quickly making it to first. This time, Rocha drilled it to center field. A second error by Cactus turned a would-be single into a triple. 

With Rocha threatening from third, Cactus clamped down and got the next three outs to end the inning as Salpointe’s lead was held to 2-0. 

In the bottom of the sixth, Salpointe got a quick three outs to return to the plate. 

With a runner on first and no outs in the top of the seventh, Cactus made a pitching change, moving first baseman Emilie Guerra to the mound. 

Guerra struck out her first batter, and then Aleena Alexander hit in to a double play to end the inning, giving Cactus one last chance. 

However, in the bottom of the seventh, Salpointe again went three up, three down to take the title. Ortiz caught the final out, a fly ball to right field, to seal the state championship. 

“We’ve been working really hard since beginning, so to finally close it up like this and to come all together with no errors was definitely something big,” Acuna said. 

Acuna was one of five seniors who reached the state title game as a freshman in 2015. Getting the seniors back to the championship game was a motivating factor for the entire team.

“They just kept telling us we had to win state for them, and we wanted to,” Aguilar said. “They worked really hard for all four years here.”

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