PHOENIX — The calling card for the Santa Cruz Valley softball team had been to play fast and aggressive both in the field and at the plate, while relying on their strong young core to lead the way. However, facing a tough Kingman Academy squad, the Dust Devils’ bats couldn’t keep up, ending their playoff run in a 8-3 loss in the quarterfinals on Saturday

After coming on as relief in their opening round game against Heritage Academy-Laveen, Rhaylyn Tarango was back inside the circle to start in the quarterfinals.

The Tigers came out hot and put pressure on the Eloy squad all game, however, Tarango kept them relatively quiet, allowing only one run through the first three innings.

At the plate, however, the Dust Devils’ lineup that hit the cover off the ball in the regular season struggled to string hits together.

With a 1-1 tie, both teams decided to wake the bats up in the fourth inning, with Santa Cruz scoring two more runs. However, the Tigers lineup found a slight edge, scoring three more runs to take a 4-3 lead.

In the fifth and sixth innings, the game quickly unraveled for the Dust Devils. With Kingman Academy driving in four more runs and putting Santa Cruz on the ropes, and struggling to respond.

Ultimately, Santa Cruz’s time simply ran out, going down in order in the bottom of the seventh and ending its season in a disappointing outcome.

“We were just flat, we were flat and we could not get it going,” Dust Devils assistant coach Richie Reyes said. “We weren’t able to change the momentum, and at the end of the day, (Kingman Academy) didn’t show us anything we hadn’t seen before, we just couldn’t execute.”

Reyes, along with the rest of the coaching staff, hopes that the girls will take the loss as a learning experience and their brief playoff run will be a lesson on what is needed to win playoff softball.

“I think the lesson is approach and how to get up and get ready for the big ones,” Reyes said. “We didn’t make a lot of mistakes, we just didn’t execute. So when we are behind, we have to approach our at-bats differently. As you get deeper into the bracket, you have to make adjustments.”

Despite the result falling short of the team’s championship aspirations. The young core, with players such as freshman Tatiyana Reyes, sophomore Aaliyah Bojorquez and juniors Tarango, Isabella Davis and Miranda Tapia, will look to come back stronger and ready to go back for a second chance next year,

“Yes, everybody is coming back and we have some talent coming in, and I expect to be here again,” Richie Reyes said. “I expect to make a run for it every time, (Kingman Academy) is a team that we can beat if we play up to our potential. We have to continue to grow and play hard and work on our approach.”

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David Church is a reporter covering Eloy, Arizona City and sports. He can be reached at dchurch@pinalcentral.com.

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