AJHS Takes No. 2 Ranking, Second Straight Black Canyon Region Crown Into Playoffs
By Daniel Dullum
Along with a balanced hitting attack and one of the state’s best pitchers, Apache Junction takes the Black Canyon Region championship and the No. 2-seed into the AIA 4A softball playoffs.
The playoffs began Saturday morning, after this edition of The News went to press.
As a team, the Lady Prospectors take a collective .431 batting average into the postseason. Besides excelling on the mound, Mikayla Gilgert provides punch in the middle of the AJHS batting order. Gilgert has a team-leading four home runs and 43 runs batted in, hits .484 with a .515 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of .769.
Gilgert is also tied with Denae Preuhs and Elexis Toro for the team lead in doubles with 12. Preuhs, a senior shortstop, is hitting .484 with an on-base percentage of .536. Toro, a sophomore second baseman, leads the Lady Prospectors with 62 hits, 27 stolen bases, a .608 batting average and a .774 slugging percentage as a left-handed slap hitter.
Rounding out the hard-hitting lineup is Cori Haro (.532 average), freshmen Tristen Greer (.388), Daisy Ruelas-Estrada (.385) and Sarah Nieman (.313), centerfielder Priscilla Saldate (.414), and catchers Mackenzie Dillon (.317) and Zoe Siegel (.347).
Gilgert leads the pitching corps with a 14-3 record, 2.06 earned run average and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 175-25. Greer is 2-1 with a 2.69 ERA and Toro is 5-2.
The Lady Prospectors completed their regular season on April 23 with a 23-2 five-inning, non-region win at Tempe.
Denae Preuhs led the AJ offense, going 5-for-5 with three runs, six RBIs, a double and two triples. Sarah Nieman drove in five runs going 3-for-5 with a double and two steals, and Elexis Toro was 4-for-4, scored three runs, drove in two, and stole three bases.
Mackenzie Dillon, Tristen Greer and Daisy Ruelas-Estrada each drove in two runs as a part of AJ’s 23-hit attack.
Mikayla Gilgert, Greer and Toro split the pitching chores, combining for four strikeouts and three walks, while giving up four hits.
Saturday’s winner between AJHS and No. 15 Cave Creek Cactus Shadows meets the winner of the No. 7-Casa Grande Union vs. No. 10 Prescott Bradshaw Mountain contest at 4 p.m., Tuesday, at the higher seed’s field.
The 16-team field is split into Pool A and Pool B, and the opening round is single elimination, going to double-elimination in the second round. Losers of the second round games will play at 4 p.m. on Thursday at the Rose Mofford Softball Complex in Phoenix. Winners on Tuesday move on to the third round, played at 4 p.m. at the Mofford Complex.
Semifinals are scheduled for Thursday, May 10, at the Mofford Complex. The single-game championship is on Tuesday, May 15, at a site yet to be determined.
Photo above: Mikayla Gilgert lead a consistent Apache Junction offensive attack as the Lady Prospectors enter the 4A softball playoffs. (Photo by Daniel Dullum)