NORTHWEST GLENDALE — There were some bizarre plays and quirky calls, but Thursday afternoon's Pacific League softball finale between archrivals Hoover High and Glendale ultimately came down to clutch hits.
The Nitros finished up with the edge in that department and came out with a 9-5 win over a Tornadoes squad that stranded 15 runners on base.
Glendale pitcher Casey Ramirez rode out the ups and downs of a game that saw four lead changes to pick up the complete-game win in her final high school game and Kristi Cabana went two for three with three runs batted in for the Nitros.
"It goes to show how hard they worked and [that they] came together," said Glendale Coach Christine Paknik, whose team improved to 6-8 in league and leapfrogged Hoover (11-14, 5-9 in league) to finish fifth. "[It's] good for Casey. Her last game on the mound, it was a little bit emotional there."
Hoover took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third inning on pitcher Katie Gates' two-out single that scored Kaitlyn Williams (two for three with a double, two walks and an RBI) from second base.
Glendale answered right back with a four-spot in the top of the fourth, keyed by Cabana's two-run triple, and the Tornadoes continued the slugfest in the bottom of the frame with Lulu Multini's two-out, two-run single that made it 4-3.
But the bottom of the fourth ended with two more runners left on by Hoover, bringing their total to that point up to nine.
"Where we got killed was leaving 15 base runners," Hoover Coach Rich Henning said. "You cannot afford to leave 15."
Things began to get a little weird in the bottom of the fifth after Hoover had loaded the bases with one out. Briana Manzanero appeared to score on a sacrifice fly to right field by Teresa Martinez, but the umpire ruled that the ball was actually dropped in right field for an error. The run was allowed either way, but Martinez, thinking she hit into a fly-ball out, went to the dugout and was called out when the ball was thrown to first.
After some argument on both sides, Martinez was allowed to return to first base, but ended up being one of two more runners left aboard by Hoover, albeit after the Tornadoes had plated Leslie Arreola on a sacrifice fly by Williams to go back up, 5-4.
Then, in the top of the sixth, after Cabana had singled to score Sheila Araji and tie the game, Brenna Cancilla bunted with a runner on third and the third baseman fielded the ball and fired to first. The Hoover second baseman cut off the throw at least a foot in front of first base and made a late throw to home that couldn't stop Rachel Bartamian from scoring the go-ahead run. Cancilla thought a put out had been made at first and went to the dugout and she was called out, but a Hoover error on a subsequent play later in the inning would allow the Nitros to tack on the first of three insurance runs.
"I thought all in all at least we didn't throw the ball around," Henning said. "They got the runs, they got the win. They deserved it — they played a little better than we did today."