The 2018 high school softball season started with a couple of Arizona teams leading the national preseason rankings. And, while that lofty status didn’t hold through the season, both Phoenix-area teams finished in the Top 50.
And, by adding a Tucson school to the list, the Grand Canyon State was able to maintain a respected national presence in the sport.
Chandler’s Hamilton High School and Pinnacle High in Phoenix began the season as the No. 1 and No. 2 teams respectively. Pinnacle moved past the Huskies as the season wore on, finishing at No. 24 in the MaxPreps national high school Top 50 softball rankings and Hamilton closed out at No. 27. And coming in at No. 37 was Salpointe Catholic in Tucson.
The early rankings made for a once-in-a-lifetime match-up in the first week of the season when the Huskies and the Pioneers met at Pinnacle. Hamilton won that game and continued on to build a 26-game winning streak against Arizona teams.
That win streak was finally broken by…yep, Pinnacle. The two teams met again in the 6A state championship game, with the Pioneers pulling out a 4-0 victory to secure the school’s first-ever state title in softball. For Pinnacle, it was the end of a long nightmare since both teams met each of the previous two years in the state title game, with Hamilton winning both of those big games and looking for a three-peat this year.
Hamilton finished the year with a 33-2 record, averaged 10 runs a game during the regular season, and had a roster loaded with six players either committed or signed with D-I college programs. The Huskies also featured one of the best pitching staffs in the state. The Huskies went five deep in the circle, including three seniors led by Madison Seigworth and Abby Andersen.
Pinnacle, too, had a stable of college-bound players that led the Pioneers to a 31-6 finish. That bounty of talent included eight players who had either signed with, or committed to, college programs. And a solid pitching staff was led by the 2017 Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year, Marissa Schuld, who was again named the Gatorade POY following this season.
So how did two dozen other teams finish above a couple of talented teams that, together, had just eight losses all season and played for a state title three years in a row?
A look at the team that finished at the top of the national standings provides some perspective on what it takes to compete at that level. The No. 1 team in the nation, Virginia’s Madison High went 28-1, won its final 14 games, and so thoroughly dominated the competition that the team trailed just twice all season and hadn’t lost a game in 42 outings, stretching back to the previous season.
Need more convincing? The Warhawks won the 6A state championship, 9-0, as their ace pitcher threw a no-hitter to secure the title. Through the season they averaged 10 runs a game, scoring a total 283 runs to their opponents’ 26 runs, and won 16 games by 10 or more runs. As a team, Madison batted .413, with nine players collecting 20 or more hits over the season and eight players contributed at least one home run.
On defense, their fielding percentage was .976. The War Hawks committed just 11 errors through almost 30 games.
With those kind of stats, there’s no argument that Madison High earned its ranking. But Hamilton and Pinnacle, too, belong on the list — as does Salpointe Catholic.
Salpointe finished the season with an impressive 32-4-1 record and had to overcome some big hurdles on its way to the 4A state championship. The Lancers didn’t go into the state playoffs with a lot of respect, seeded fifth and with a freshman leading its pitching staff. But they beat No. 1 Canyon del Oro HS twice on the road through the brackets, the second time in the semifinals.
That freshman pitcher, Alyssa Aguilar, posted a 14-1 record this season. So it looks like Salpointe has a good chance to continue earning a spot in the national rankings. At least for the next three years.