POLACCA — Hopi and Red Mesa were evenly matched as each team won a one run game during their softball doubleheader March 11 at Hopi.
Hopi High edged Red Mesa, 10-9, in the opener but the Lady Redskins won the nightcap, 12-11.
These teams kept matching runs and strikeouts.
In the nightcap, Red Mesa broke an 8-8 tie in the bottom of the fourth. Bittah, the winning pitcher, doubled home the go ahead run. Tiarra Joe knocked in a run with a single and another run scored on a passed ball as Red Mesa grabbed the edge, 11-8.
In the top of the fifth, Savanna “Shorty” Anderson singled and later scored on a passed ball as Hopi pulled within 11-9.
After Dewakuku struck out the side in the bottom of the fifth, Hopi rallied in the top of the sixth.
Martika Yazzie walked and later scored on a passed ball. Hopi had runners on second and third with nobody out when Cheyenne Harding hit the ball hard to third base, but the Red Mesa third basemen speared it and doubled a runner off. Lenita Poncho followed with an RBI single as the Lady Bruins tied the game at 11-11.
Red Mesa threatened in the bottom of the sixth, but with runners on first and second and one out, Hopi pulled off a double play on a grounder to the third basemen. The third basemen stepped on third and fired to second to complete the double killing.
In the top of the seventh, Hopi threatened with runners on second and third with two out before Bittah came through with a crucial strike out.
Red Mesa scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh. Angela Shorty singled and stole second before Calista John came on with a squibbler into right field for the winning hit.
Jaylene Dewakuku won the opener for the Bruins before Bobbie Bittah gained the victory for Red Mesa in the second game.
Hopi High Coach Dirk Wirth said he was an emotional wreck from the two close games, but emphasized this is the way that high school softball is supposed to be played.
“I thought it was an exciting way to open the season. Everybody showed good sportsmanship and the two teams were evenly matched,” he said.
Coach Wirth said he wished his team didn’t make the mistakes they made.
“But that’s expected on opening day,” he said.
Coach Wirth noted that seven of Hopi High’s 18 players were freshmen and nine of the 18 had never played softball previously.
The Lady Bruins had two earlier season games scheduled, but they were postponed due to inclement weather.
“The girls did a good job considering that they were getting tired of just practicing,” he said. “It was fun to be out on the field again. It felt like spring.”
Coach Wirth said it was good to see Red Mesa Coach Henrietta Haven. Wirth has been at Hopi High for 13 years, and he said Haven has been at Red Mesa for at least that long.
“She does a good job. Her kids are always well behaved and nice. It’s nice that we both won in the bottom of the seventh,” he said.
Coach Wirth said his two pitchers gave good efforts.
Dewakuku had pitched mainly junior varsity last year.
Racheal Jim, who hadn’t pitched previously, started the second game.
Coach Wirth noted that Hopi was missing five of its top 10 players as some were academically eligible, one broke a discipline rule and others were on the Upward Bound trip.
Hopi’s offense was on the move in the first game with Terra Morgan, Tori Yazzie, Racheal Jim and Kristi Timms banging out hits.
Hopi scored the winning run in the bottom of the seventh. Lenita Poncho singled and Jim knocked in the winning run with a sacrifice fly.
Coach Wirth said the Hopi hitters weren’t driving the ball the way they will before the season ends. But he was more concerned about their throwing.
“Our throwing was terrible, and we’ll be working on that a long time,” he said.
There are only two seniors on the team: Lenita Poncho and Teri Yazzie. Despite the lack of experience, Coach Wirth said he hopes the Lady Bruins can finish third or fourth in conference so they can gain a birth in the state playoffs.
“We’re hoping to peak at the end of April so that we have a shot at state,” he said.
Hopi’s two catchers were Marlita Burbank and Ronisha Lopez, both freshman.
The infield had Celena Nash at first, Savanna Anderson at second, Lenita Poncho at shortstop and Racheal Jim and Jackie Tsosie at third base.
The outfield had Juhree Poleahla in left, Terra Morgan in center and Tori Yazzie in right.
(Stan Bindell, former Observer editor, is journalism and radio teacher at Hopi High School.)