Mohave Prevails in Fourth Round, Ending Successful Softball Season for AJHS
By Daniel Dullum
Apache Junction’s successful softball season ended Tuesday at the Rose Mofford Softball Complex, where Bullhead City Mohave eliminated the Lady Prospectors from the 4A playoffs with a 7-1 victory.
The No. 6-seed Lady Thunderbirds (21-12) advanced in Pool B, but lost 4-3 on May 10 to No. 3-seed Glendale Cactus. Tucson Salpointe Catholic – the Pool A champion – meets Cactus for the 4A title Tuesday in Tempe at Arizona State’s Farrington Softball Stadium.
AJHS, the No. 2-seed Black Canyon Region champions, saw its season end at 25-8.
“This was a bittersweet loss,” Lady Prospectors Coach Ed Matlosz said. “The girls did a heck of a job overall, but we just didn’t get much going in the last couple of games.”
The Lady Prospectors’ playoff run of two wins and two losses is the furthest AJHS has gone since losing to Eloy Santa Cruz in the 1979 Class 3A title game.
AJHS senior pitcher Mikayla Gilgert said, “This is the furthest AJ has ever gone (in 4A), so that’s something to be proud of.”
Lady Thunderbirds pitcher Kalani Reehill held AJHS to one hit – Denae Preuhs’s first-inning triple, her fifth of the season. She struck out two and walked two as Mohave rocked Lady Gilgert for seven earned runs on 11 hits.
In the Mohave first, Daezha Goodloe led off with a double and scored on a wild pitch. Alicia Rhodes followed with an infield hit, stole second and Reehill walked. With two out, Hannah Hansen drove in Rhodes and Reehill, putting the Lady Thunderbirds up 3-0.
Apache Junction responded with a run in the bottom of the first, when Preuhs tripled and scored when Gilgert walked and was caught in a rundown. That was all the offense the Lady Prospectors could muster against Reehill.
“We were trying to put some pressure on them early and see how they reacted and try to get in their head a little bit. That’s part of our game,” Matlosz said. “But (Mohave) made every play. They’re very solid fundamentally. They don’t chase bad pitches.”
Mohave added a run in the third inning. After Hansen was retired trying to stretch a double into a triple with one out, Tiffany Salahub singled and scored on Taylor Lujan’s double. On a popup to shallow left field (caught by shortstop Preuhs) that ended the inning, AJ leftfielder Cori Haro was injured in a collision with centerfielder Priscilla Saldate.
“I was going for the ball, and Priscilla was calling for me to go for the ball, and me and Denae weren’t talking,” Haro said. “Her whole body collided into my leg.”
Haro said her leg is “really badly bruised, but I won’t be able to play again right away.”
Another three-run rally – this one in the sixth – blew the game open for Mohave. A Lujan single and Sammie Welt walk preceded Goodloe’s two-RBI double. With two out, Goodloe scored on Jaden McDaniel’s RBI single.
Gilgert (17-5) had five strikeouts, giving her 205 for the season and a career total of 645. She’s headed to Division II Georgian Court University (N.J.) to continue her softball career.
“Every game, you learn new things about how batters hit,” Gilgert said. “So that’s just something I have to improve on. Today, Mohave fouled off a lot of pitches and made me work.”
“Mikayla had a heck of a career overall,” Matlosz said. “Our younger pitchers (Elexis Toro and Tristan Greer) will have to step up.”
Preuhs closed out her Lady Prospectors career hitting .476 with an on-base percentage of .529. She scored 43 runs and drove in 40 in her senior season, finishing her AJ career with a .471 OBP, .407 average and 15 triples.
The senior shortstop recently decided to continue her softball playing at Mesa Community College.
“I’ll be there for two years, get my associate’s and move on,” Preuhs said. “I went to tons of colleges for visits. My club coach is best friends with the MCC coach, so it really spoke to me that they’re family and teach the kind of things to keep improving on. I know I’m going to enjoy it.
“I wish I had the guts to go out of state, but I wanted to stay closer to my family. It’s just the next step into my future.”
Looking ahead with a large nucleus of returning players, Matlosz said his team “has to get stronger.”
“We’ve got to square the bat and hammer the nail. We weren’t doing that,” Matlosz said. “Sometimes we’re under or over a pitch. Some of that is us, but you have to adjust and hit the ball harder. We’ve got some work to do in the off-season. Hopefully, our girls will get stronger and hit the ball like we have in the past.
“We have a lot of returners who now have a good idea of where we have to get to.”
Haro: “I think we fought through strong, and we had a good season in that we all really worked together as a team.”
Gilgert: “I hope they do real good next year!”
Preuhs concluded, “This wasn’t my ideal way to end my last high school game. But there’s a lot of potential on this team – I’ll be working with them this summer – to help them improve, because next year, they can possibly do even better.”
Photo above: Preuhs is ready to take off for the plate, scoring the Lady Prospectors’ only run on May 8. (Photo by Daniel Dullum)